It was the noise of the news helicopters that drew my attention to on Friday, August 10, 2012, 6:12 PM, while trying to return to Santa Monica Airport. Upon turning on the TV, I expected a traffic report. Instead I immediately saw the horrific image of a plane engulfed in flames in the West Los Angeles neighborhood not far from the Westside Pavilion.
I checked WebTrak today, August 18, to investigate if traffic into and out of SMO was halted after the August 10 crash. It did not surprise me that there were operations into and out of SMO shortly after the crash, including pattern flights and jet operations (see attachment). It was interesting to note the helicopters over the crash site. I saw five of them out my back window. WebTrak has trouble recognizing some helicopters. Instead of showing helicopter icons, they had a jet as well as small fixed wing aircraft performing close circles over the crash site area. There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to WebTrak information, but at least it offers us some information to try and sort through. Although it does seem that the most egregious events are difficult if not impossible to locate.
For instance, in less than one weeks time after the tragic fatal crash, I received the following email message:
"Today at around 1pm, two single engine planes flew overhead in CLOSE formation only about 20 feet apart. I can't believe that these idiots are allowed to play their air games over our homes inside the approach to SMO and LAX!!
One mistake and we have two planes crashing into homes!!"
Coincidentally, my wife and a neighbor witnessed the same group of two planes over our area.
When I checked WebTrak I found nothing that came even close to representing this event.
I brought this issue of formation flying to the attention of SMO staff several times in the past. At first I was told by staff that planes were not allowed to fly in formation, SMO website states "Formation Flying - Formation flying within the Class D Airspace is highly discouraged unless necessary for an emergency." However, a representative from the FAA who was fielding questions at an Airport Commission meeting said that if the pilots request to approach SMO in formation they would be allowed to. Incredibly, he even said that he knew of no restriction on the number of aircraft that could fly information.
Formation flying is an unnecessary safety risk. It is unacceptable and it is disrespectful to the community that it endangers
We, the community, need to stand up and fight for our rights as it is evident that the City of Santa Monica and the FAA will remain complacent.