Staff is pleased to report that Torrance Airport (TOA) is developing noise testing criteria, following recent FAA approval, for new helicopter routes arriving and departing Torrance Airport, including a South Crenshaw route which follows Crenshaw Boulevard to the Ocean at an increased altitude. Public meetings about the proposed testing criteria will probably take place this spring or summer.
The Torrance City Council adopted three improved helicopter routes and altitude flight minimum levels in early 2011. One of the proposed route modifications, if implemented, could have a positive impact on the City’s residents by modifying the existing South Crenshaw Helicopter route and increasing the minimum height from 1,500 feet to 2,000 mean sea level (msl) along the high elevation points along the route. City staff worked closely with Torrance Airport staff and a Torrance Helicopter Subcommittee on this issue.
The proposed South Crenshaw route change, if approved by the FAA, would minimize residential impact by modifying the route to direct helicopters to fly over the eastern segment of the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve rather than fly near Terranea Resort, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, adjacent neighborhoods and the western segment of the Preserve. The current route ends near the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Indian Peak. While the great majority of Torrance helicopter activity does not encroach upon Peninsula airspace, staff believes it is important to monitor this issue to minimize any potential negative impacts on our residents.
The FAA tentatively approved new routes and higher altitudes for the South Crenshaw route and a second route, which goes from Torrance Airport to the ocean following Pacific Coast Highway. The 2011 proposed changes to the Southeast route which links the airport and the Los Angeles Harbor would have resulted in increased hazards requiring significant mitigation measures, so the City of Torrance withdrew that particular route change and requested only an altitude increase.
The FAA convened a Safety Risk Management Panel which included fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter pilots and operators, Torrance residents, and representatives of the City of Torrance and Torrance Airport, to discuss safety concerns related to the three proposed helicopter route changes.
The Safety Risk Management Panel did include additional language allowing for lower altitudes when necessary due to safety, traffic and weather conditions. Based on the results of the Safety Risk Management Panel, the FAA recently undertook a Safety Risk Management analysis of the three routes. The FAA has finished its safety analysis of the three routes and has approved a 180 day test of the routes, which will include noise monitoring and analysis, along with public outreach efforts.
Subsequent to the FAA’s approval of noise testing, TOA is now in the process of designing the test period criteria. Once that is complete, TOA will hold public meeting about the test criteria and receive input from the airplane community and the general public. No meeting dates are set, but they are anticipated to occur in spring or summer this year. If the routes are approved by the FAA after noise testing and the public outreach process is complete, the noise abatement routes would be published and available to all helicopter pilots using Torrance Airport. Staff will continue to keep the City Council informed of any significant developments.
August 8, 2011 Update
FAA Responds to Proposed Changes to Torrance Airport Helicopter Routes
The Torrance City Council adopted improved helicopter routes and altitude flight levels at its February 1, 2011 meeting. A Helicopter Committee consisting of Torrance residents, aviation experts and government officials was formed to study the issue of helicopter noise generated along established routes flying into and out of Torrance Airport. After extensive research, the Helicopter Committee recommended route modifications and increased flying altitudes from 600 feet msl to at least 1,200 feet msl along 3 primary routes from the Airport. Its recommendation was forwarded to the Torrance Airport Commission which accepted the route modifications, but rejected the flight altitude increase, claiming it posed a safety risk by placing helicopters and light aircraft in too close proximity. Torrance City staff disagreed with the Airport Commission’s conclusions and recommended that the City Council endorse the Helicopter Committee’s recommendations.
Changes to South Crenshaw Helicopter Route Over the Palos Verdes Peninsula
This decision will reduce the impact on Peninsula residents by modifying the existing South Crenshaw Helicopter route and increasing the minimum height to 2,000 feet mean sea level (msl) along the high elevation points along the route. While only ten percent of Torrance Airport helicopter traffic follows this route, Rancho Palos Verdes staff believed it was important to eliminate or minimize the noise impact on residents. When attempts to eliminate the route proved unsuccessful, staff then worked to minimize residential impact by modifying the route so it flew over the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve rather than fly near Terranea Resort, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park and adjacent neighborhoods. The route previously ended near the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Indian Peak.
The adopted South Crenshaw route modification is expected to reduce over-flights over more densely-populated Rancho Palos Verdes neighborhoods. Higher altitude levels will also reduce the noise impact on City residents.
Torrance Airport Management contacted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a February 24, 2011 letter about these proposed changes and requested that the FAA review and approve modifications to the “Helicopter Letter of Agreement” (LOA). The letter outlined the proposed changes, reviewed the process that the City of Torrance went through, and explained that the changes would be implemented over a six-month trial period to monitor how effective the changes were in providing noise mitigation without impacting safety. The stated intent was to work with the FAA to implement permanent modification to the LOA after the six-month trial period.
The Operations Support Group Manager for the FAA responded to Torrance Airport’s letter on April 15, 2011. The FAA’s letter identified a number of steps beyond Torrance’s basic requested review and approval, which would need to be completed before a test procedure could be implemented. The letter noted the need for an aeronautical analysis of helicopter and fixed wing traffic, which would be performed by the FAA and would take approximately four months. Additionally, the letter called for a noise analysis or Integrated Noise Modeling for the South Crenshaw route to be undertaken and paid for by the City of Torrance. The FAA noted that the portion of the South Crenshaw route extension running from approximately Indian Peak to the Pacific Ocean is outside of Class D airspace which is the typical boundary limit for charting helicopter routes. This proposed extension would also call for a new noise profile analysis. Finally, the FAA requested more information about how Torrance Airport and the Torrance City Council intend to evaluate the testing of the new routes. Click here to see the February 24, 2011 letter from the City of Torrance to the FAA and the FAA’s April 15, 2011 response.
The issue was discussed at Torrance Airport Helicopter Committee meetings on April 21 and May 5, 2011. City of Rancho Palos Verdes staff attended both meetings. Committee Chairman Pete Elmore advised the Committee that Torrance Airport should conduct noise modeling for the Pacific Coast Highway east route (heading to the harbor area) and the South Crenshaw route. Torrance Airport staff has not officially responded to the FAA as of May 12, 2011.
While the great majority of Torrance Airport helicopter activity does not encroach upon Peninsula airspace, staff believes it is important to monitor this development and other airspace issue to minimize any potential negative impacts on our residents.
How to File a Noise Complaint
For Torrance Noise Abatement, call 310-784-7950 or click here to go to the Torrance Noise Abatement website.
Contacting Rancho Palos Verdes Staff
Click here to go the City’s List Serve to sign up to receive updates on aircraft noise abatement and other airspace issues affecting the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.