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Traffic at Santa Monica Airport Continues to Drop, According to the Latest Departure Data


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June 22, 2018 -- Aircraft departures from Santa Monica Airport (SMO) continued to decline last month furthering a trend that started when the City shortened the runway in December, according to the latest data.

May marked the fifth consecutive month that saw a reduction in aircraft departures, compared to the two-year average for the same month, the data released this week shows.

Total departures decreased to 2,417 last month, compared to 3,057 departures in May 2016 and 2,721 in 2017. That represented a 14 percent drop from the two-year average.

Jet departures -- which spurred the runway shortening -- once again saw the biggest decrease, dropping from a two-year average of 780 operations to 136 last month, an 83 percent decrease.

That follows a similar drop of 82 percent in April and 86 percent in March, the data shows.

Between January 1 and May 30 jet departures have nosedived from 3,383 in 2017 to 602 this year, or an 82 percent decrease.

Piston aircraft operations -- which account for the largest number of departures -- continued to increase in May from a two-year monthly average of 1,627 to 1,848 last month, a 14 percent increase.

Piston aircraft operations have increased 9 percent from January through May of this year, totaling 8,557 departures, compared to 7,817 during the same period last year.

After seeing an increase in the first four months of the year, turbo-craft departures decreased last month to 283, compared to a 330 average for May over the past two years.

May marked "the first decrease in this category since we shortened the runway, except for the year-over-year comparison for March, which we believe may have been a result of inclement weather," said Suja Lowenthal, senior advisor on airport matters to the City Manager.

Turboprop aircraft -- which use a turbine engine to drive an aircraft propeller -- fly lower and use less fuel than turbo jets, according to aviation sites.

Helicopter departures slightly decreased in May to 150, from a two-year average of 153, marking the first decrease since the runway was shortened.

In December, the City shortened the length of SMO's runway from almost 5,000 feet to about 3,500 feet ("Santa Monica Airport Starts Ten-Day Closure to Aircraft for Runway Shortening," December 15, 2017).

The move was designed to ward off charter jets until SMO closes entirely as an airport at the end of 2028 under a consent decree between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).


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