Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Changes in the Wind for Santa Monica Airport

Los Angeles Local News, Weather, and Traffic 

Posted: May 01, 2013 2:41 AM EST 
Updated: May 01, 2013 2:41 AM EST 
Posted by: Pablo Pereira, Meteorologist / Reporter / Web Producer 
By: Gigi Graciette, Reporter 

The debate over the Santa Monica Airport reminds me of coyotes and bears, lion and tigers, oh my!

You know how coyotes and other animals are leaving the wild more and more, wandering into neighborhoods in search of food?

I think they have a fancy term for it - something like "wildland urban interface". Basically we're the ones who are moving into their neighborhood, not vice-versa.

A similar phenomenon has happened in Santa Monica, in and around the airport.

What once were, as LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl calls it "bean fields and orange groves" are now condos and homes.

Entire neighborhoods with an airport smack dab in the middle of them. And the folks who live there are tired of the noise, pollution, etc...

But the people who use the airport, say "What did you expect, moving next to an airport?"

In turn, those who live there will explain the airport wasn't that busy back then; there weren't studies about toxicity and pollution like there are now, etc...

And on the argument goes.

A ray of hope to those who want to see the airport shuttered is that the FAA's lease with the city expires in 2015.

A ray of hope to those who want to keep the airport open is that the FAA says the lease doesn't really expire in 2015 but in 2023.

And if that doesn't work, Santa Monica's City Attorney says the FAA has a "Post World War II Instrument of Transfer", an agreement that guarantees the airport be operated in "perpetuity". And that the FAA has said it will appeal any effort to close SMO.

And on the argument goes.

Story and Video:

Pilot flew drunk, jury says

A cargo pilot who overshot the Spokane airport by 50 miles last year, then lined up on the wrong runway during his approach, has been convicted in federal court of the rare charge of flying while intoxicated.

Paul R. Roessler, 48, of Federal Way, was flying a twin-engine Piper PA-34 Seneca for a company based in Seattle. He faces up to 15 years in prison, although he’s likely to get far less time when he’s sentenced July 9.

A jury convicted Roessler under the federal statute of operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol. His trial before U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko concluded Friday.

Roessler was working for the contract cargo operator Airpac Airlines Inc. when he took off alone from Seattle’s Boeing Field about 7 p.m. on April 26 last year. Some 42 minutes later, air traffic controllers in Spokane began trying to contact Roessler by radio.

After 10 failed attempts to raise him, air traffic controllers at 8:02 p.m. asked pilots in a nearby United Airlines plane to radio Roessler, but they also were unsuccessful, according to court records.

Roessler finally contacted the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center at 8:09 p.m. and said he had accidentally shut off his communication system.

Air controllers “informed the Defendant that he has overflown Spokane by approximately 50 miles and asked if he was going to return to Spokane,” court records say. Roessler said he would. “My mistake, my apologies,” he said.

As Roessler approached Spokane International Airport, controllers told him he was cleared to land on Runway 25. But “during the approach … the Defendant lined up to land on the wrong runway,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Lister wrote in court records.

Air traffic controllers asked him which runway he intended to use, and he shifted course and landed on the correct runway.

Spokane Airport Police sent Officers Clay Creek and Shauna McKinley to check on Roessler’s welfare when he landed, and the airport fire department was also dispatched to the plane.

When the officers arrived, Roessler was already busy unloading the aircraft. He told officers that he’d lost radio contact when he accidentally switched his radio to the wrong channel.

McKinley noted that Roessler’s voice seemed “mushy,” which made her suspect he’d been drinking. Once inside, Roessler walked directly toward a coffee machine, but Creek refused to allow the pilot to drink coffee because he feared Roessler was trying to mask his breath, court records state.

Both officers and a Federal Aviation Administration inspector – who responded to the report of a pilot losing radio contact – said they could smell alcohol.

The officers tested Roessler’s blood-alcohol level an hour after he landed; it measured 0.109 percent. The legal limit to operate a vehicle is 0.08 percent.

They contacted the Washington State Patrol, and Trooper Ethan Wynecoop arrived at about 10 p.m. and put Roessler through a series of sobriety tests, which he either failed or struggled to accomplish. Wynecoop again tested the pilot’s blood-alcohol level; nearly three hours after he landed, it was .94 and .88.

Later, during an interview, Roessler admitted he’d been drinking whiskey mixers that morning. “The Defendant indicated he thought he was alright because there was an eight hour break from ‘bottle to throttle,’ ” Lister wrote.

Roessler’s commercial pilot license has been revoked.

Federal defenders Robert Fischer and Syovata Edari had tried to suppress evidence and have Suko dismiss the case, arguing that breath tests are unreliable and investigators failed to obtain a more reliable blood test. But Suko allowed the case to go to a jury trial.