Return of the 250 Heading?

The FAA has just released full details of their new Metroplex plan.

The entire document can be dowloaded from the FAA site here (you want the PDF document titled: SoCal Metroplex DEA Full Document (70 MB)), however this is 70 MB and extremely difficult to manipulate and understand.  To help you CASMAT has extracted just the portions you will need to look into what is changing regarding SMO.

CASMAT is in the process of analyzing the document so we will be updating this post regularly as we discover more information.

The FAA (in table 3.2 page 3-17 of the original document) defines all the procedures that may change.  The ones that impact SMO are as follows:

Changed Procedures


  • A runway transition is counted if there is at least one waypoint or fix beyond (or prior to) the common route to create a defined segment between the runway and common route. (i.e. a defined route between two fixes or waypoints).
  • N/A=Not Applicable DME=Distance Measuring
  • STAR=Standard Terminal Arrival
  • SID=Standard Instrument
  • VOR=VHF Omnidirectional
  • RNAV=Area Navigation VORTAC=VHF Omnidirectional

In addition Table 3.3 (page 3-25) defines two new RNP approaches for SMO viz:

RNP Changes

An RNP equipped aircraft aircraft navigation system provides a more accurate location (down to less than a mile from the intended path) and will follow a highly predictable path. The enhanced accuracy and predictability makes it possible to implement procedures within controlled airspace that are not always possible under the current air traffic system.

To download the PDF of what all the paths look like under the no action alternative click here:  Page 67.pdf and download to your computer (you can’t manipulate it on the web).  When aircraft depart or arrive to the Southern California Metroplex on an assigned route or SID/STAR, transfer of control occurs between multiple air traffic facilities. Under the No Action Alternative, the transfer areas would remain unchanged from existing conditions.

To download the PDF of what all the paths will look like under the FAA’s proposed action approach click here:  Page 79.pdf and download to your computer (you can’t manipulate it on the web).

To manipulate these documents (use the isolated documents Page 67.pdf or Page 79.pdf, not the original as it is slow to manipulate) you will need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader.  When you open the document (in this case Page 79.pdf), you may have to show the “Layers” tool using the menu (as shown in the screen shot below):


First thing to do is turn off the introductory box (so you can see the map) by scrolling to the top of the layers list and un-checking the “Introduction” layer.  Now scroll to the bottom of the layers list and un-check “Airports” and “Airport Symbols” (otherwise they will obscure the routes).  Now scroll so that the SMO procedures are centered in your layers list and you can turn them on/off individually to see what they look like.

Now zoom in to around SMO (the Marquee Zoom in the menu is the quickest way) and turn on a path (in the diagram below I have enabled SMO CTRUS WEST DEP – RNAV), you should see the envelope for the procedure.  Note that this new departure procedure appears to route aircraft directly over the same areas of the City that the infamous 250 degree heading test once did!  So we can clearly see that the public is likely to have an issue with this new path.



Unfortunately as you can see the envelope is very broad and so the exact path is not clear.  Apparently at the FAA workshop they have stated that they will have more accurate maps for people to look at.

OK, you should be in a position to examine paths yourself now, perhaps by opening both the page 67 and 79 documents, zooming them to the same area, and then turning on corresponding paths using the table above.  The “Proposed Action Procedure” path should be shown in the page 79 document, the “No Action Procedure” (which corresponds to the situation as it is right now) in the 67.  This way you can clearly see the differences.

Good luck!

We will update this post as we learn more.  And remember, you need to come to the FAA’s workshop on the 17th and ask questions/express your concerns since that will become part of the permanent record.

This workshop is scheduled for June 17, 2015 at Santa Monica Main Public Library Multipurpose Room from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The purpose of these public workshops is to provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the SoCal Metroplex project and to submit their comments. Representatives from the FAA will be available during the workshop to provide information about the project.

The quotes below are from the City’s Advisory encouraging people to attend this this workshop:

It provides for new flight procedures that are more precise and creates a narrower flight path resulting in a concentration of flights over certain areas.

The City is not a sponsor of this project and has not been involved in identifying or evaluating changes to flight procedures. City staff continues to reiterate to the FAA, Santa Monica’s opposition to any modifications that would change headings on takeoff from the current heading, by which aircraft fly directly to the coast, rather than over Santa Monica’s hills and more residences.

The City urges the community to learn about the FAA’s SoCal Metroplex project by attending one of these workshops and to submit comments directly to the FAA. Representatives from the FAA will be available during the workshops to provide information about the project.


The screen shot below (click to enlarge) compares all Eastern arrivals (new to the left, old to the right).  As can be seen, although a number of new procedures have been added, it appears not much has changed in terms of where the aircraft will be flying for Eastern arrivals.


The screen shot below (click to enlarge) compares all Western arrivals (new to the left, old to the right).  As can be seen the only significant change is the new SMO BONJO WEST procedure which vectors aircraft more directly down from the north (new new white area shown on the left over Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills).


The screen shot below (click to enlarge) compares all Western departures (new to the left, old to the right).  As can be seen, the major difference in this diagram is the addition of the new CMO CTRUS WEST departure mentioned earlier which looks pretty much line the much hated 250 degree heading that caused over 44,000 complaints when the FAA tested it back in 2010.  This is clearly a major threat to the peace and quiet of people in most of the City, but particularly in Ocean Park and Sunset Park, and something that the public needs to address vigorously at the FAA workshop.


Finally, the screen shot below (click to enlarge) compares all Eastern departures (new to the left, old to the right).  As can be seen the outline is pretty much unchanged although the new PEVEE EAST departure can be seen like a kind of hook overlaying the SMO EAST (Radar Vectors) departure.  Presumably this means more planes will be executing this takeoff inland followed by a sharp turn and passing back over Venice to the Ocean.  If this does indeed imply more planes following this path (which is not clear), this change could be of concern for Mar Vista and Venice residents.  However, it is quite rare that planes take off in this direction so the impact may not be significant.


So, it appears that the major impact that we can identify for sure is the reincarnation of the 250 heading as the new CTRUS WEST departure (or is it perhaps the mysterious Santa Monica 1 – which is not shown in the new layers despite being mentioned in the table?).  To understand this in more detail, we need to download the SoCal Study Team Final Report (7 MB) document from the same FAA page 100 (section 4.4.1 – SMO/LAX Interactions), we see what is going on.  In section “ Runway 21 RNAV SID” there it is:

– The OST designed an RNAV SID with multiple transitions as shown in Figure 64 that
is procedurally deconflicted from LAX Runways 24L/R departures.
– The proposed SMO Runway 21 SID is procedurally deconflicted from LAX
departures by approximately 3.25 miles, which meets minimum separation


– The deconfliction of the SMO and LAX procedures will result in reduced vectoring,
improved fuel planning, reduced departure and arrival delays, and minimized
interfacility coordination.
– The new procedures will allow for simultaneous operations at both airports with the
sole constraint being limitations to the 270 degree heading that is used for prop
aircraft from LAX Runways 24L/R.

In other words, assuming I’m reading this right (which I’ll confirm ASAP) the hated 250 heading is back, only now its a 260 heading.  The reasoning is identical to that that used by the FAA last time, that is to maintain the 3.25 mile separation with LAX takeoffs (despite all the new technology that should clearly make this consideration irrelevant).  By the way section also mentions that the new ‘missed approach’ for a plane landing from the East (i.e., that is unable to land and must go around again for whatever reason) will also follow the new path (over the hill – sounds safe doesn’t it!).  Note also that diagram 64 describes an approach whereas the text discusses a departure procedure.  Perhaps they intend both – RNAV approaches for both runway 03 and 21?  Can you say jetport?

I hate to say it folks, but if this is true, it looks like we need to gear up once again for a fight.  See you all at the FAA Workshop!


A later City Advisory with more details on paths has now been issued.

FAA Extends comment period for Metroplex till Sept 8, 2015 (email, July 9, 2015)

Comment Period extended again until October 8, 2015 (email, September 8, 2015)

September 15, 2015 – The FAA has now posted improved data in Google Earth format here:  Unlike the previous data, this data is actually useable by normal people, and now includes flight tracks etc. (see images below):


CorridorsTo access and use this data, you must download and install the Google Earth (or Google Earth Pro) application from:  Then download the “.kml” file you wish to examine (likely SoCal Metroplex Draft EA Procedures – Los Angeles – Inland Empire Area).  Open the “.kml” file in Google Earth (or GE Pro), be aware that it may take a while to display anything, when it does, un-check the “Introduction” (since it will hide the map until you get rid of it).  Then zoom in to SMO and enable the various overlays in the left hand list as shown in the images above.


11 thoughts on “Return of the 250 Heading?

  1. Alan Levenson

    Thank you for this analysis and informing us of the impacts of the metroplex changes.
    The metroplex is one more reason for pressing the City of Santa Monica and the FAA to act
    aggressively to reduce the jet traffic at SMO. These solutions include closing the Western Parcel and eliminating the two large FBOs at SMO, Atlantic and Gunnell. Closing of the Western Parcel would shorten the runway and eliminating the FBOs would reduce the jet traffic by making SMO as less convenient destination. Closing the airport could be the next step, but at least in the meantime both of the above options would be of benefit as soon as the 1984 agreement and the leases expire on July 1.

  2. Neil Rubin

    This is really very different from the “250 heading test” and is actually a _very_ minor tweak to current procedures.

    Currently, IFR piston aircraft turn right to a 250 heading at the point where the runway heading intersects the LAX VOR 315 degree radial–which is in Venice at about 3rd Ave, just south of Rose Ave. Currently, IFR jets flying the PEVEE or PEEER standard instrument departures turn right to a 256 heading basically at Lincoln Blvd, just a bit north of Rose Ave.

    With the new procedures, all IFR airplanes flying GPS-based instrument departures will turn right to a 260 heading at a point that appears to be around 6th Ave and Rose Ave. (We won’t know the precise point until the FAA publishes the actual procedures, but that’s where the map you posted shows the turn.) So, all GPS-equipped IFR aircraft will turn 4 or 10 degrees further to the right. IFR jets will turn two blocks later than they have been, and IFR piston aircraft will turn three blocks sooner. (Man the barricades!) Note that some aircraft don’t have the correct GPS equipment to fly the new procedures, so they will presumably continue to use the old ones. Add in the vagaries of wind and other factors that cause flight paths to vary, and I really doubt that anyone on the ground will be able to tell the difference.

    The big change is that (1) SMO IFR departures (for aircraft with the required GPS equipment) will be flying a more northerly path out over the ocean, so they are farther from the LAX departure path, and (2) more SMO IFR departures will be flying a more precise GPS-based path when they turn and over the ocean, to better guarantee the required separation from LAX traffic.

  3. Monika Bialas

    Whoever wrote this memo should be complimented. It’s too technical for me to comment. I will try to be in attendance on the 17th.

  4. alan katz

    I guess that all of this is important because you have apparently forgotten that there was a public election last November. The people of santa Monica voted and soundly rejected the airport and spoke with their vote for an alternative use of land with the Santa MonicaCouncil acting as stewards of the land. It would be totally ridiculous for the FAA and the city council to try to circumvent the will of the people, but that looks like what is happening. Where is the voice of CASMAT in making it known that the people have spoken. The airport should be considered as being in transition. At the latest , within 3years, the airport should become something else. Why is CASMAT letting the FAA ignore a free and open election in a free society ? The FAA may not want the airport closed for their own reasons, but based on the election, they need to get over it, and the SM council needs to be held accountable for promises made prior to the election.
    Sicerely ,
    Alan Katz

    1. John Post author


      As chair of the “Yes on LC, No on D” campaign, in addition to my role as founder of CASMAT, I can assure you that I am more aware that most of exactly what the people voted for in November. Other than keeping people informed of what is going on through actions like this post, precisely how do you think that CASMAT (or the City Council for that matter) can dictate what the FAA does and does not do? All we can do is try to persuade. The FAA may well not feel obligated to heed what Santa Monica voters say, they are after all a federal agency and do not answer to the Santa Monica electorate. As to your assertion that the SM Council is not heeding what the voters said, I must take exception with that statement also. The voters said three things regarding SMO in the election:

      1) Deal with the airport for us (but they didn’t say what that meant in terms of precise strategy)
      2) Tell the aviation lobby to stop meddling in Santa Monica politics (by defeating D)
      3) If any land gets freed up, make it into a Park (by passing measure LC)

      (2) happened at the polls. (3) is beginning July 1st with the 12 acre expansion of Airport Park and removal of the two tie-down areas. That just leaves (1). Clearly 3-year leases vs. month-to-month was never opined on by the electorate, nor was any other strategy even mentioned or discussed, so your statement comes down to an assumption that in your opinion a particular strategy is best. Perhaps you think going month-to-month across the board is a good idea, perhaps closing the Western parcel, not-renewing aviation leases, etc. There are many opinions on the relative wisdom of these and other approaches, even among those who wish to see the airport closed just like you do. Let me be clear, our City Council has been unanimous in its support for the community regarding the airport, and the 3-parcel strategy it adopted in the March 24 Council meeting I believe strikes a wise balance between haste/risk vs. steady progress. It clearly signals that the airport is ‘in transition’ as you want.

      Wars are rarely won all at once, so pinning all hopes on one battle/strategy is likely a losing gambit. Wars must be fought each and every battle at a time. That is what CASMAT has been doing for years, and will continue to do. That is also what the City Council and others have done, and will no doubt continue to do. Some battles we lose, others we win, but its hard to tell which way it will go beforehand. The FAA’s new flight paths are just one more front, and countering any harm they could do may be just as important as any other front in the big picture. Consider that if the FAA don’t get the IFR paths they want for the jets, it clearly makes a difference to their motivation going forward. That is why it is all important.

      Hopefully between us all we can avoid putting all our eggs in one basket, and we will win in the end.

      John Fairweather

  5. alan katz

    John , I was wondering if you could repost the content of the LC and D initiatives as it appeared on the ballot last November. I can’t find it on your site ( ?. It would be interesting to revisit what the public was actually voting for or against in that election. When you asked people to contribute money to that campaign, it was never indicated that the FAA could just blow off the election as meaningless dribble. This is the type of thing that makes people feel helpless at the ballot box and why voter turnout is usually low. It would be nice if a Gov agency ( FAA and Santa Monica Council ) would respect the democratic process and that residents of a community had the power to change their community for the better.

    1. John Post author

      Measure D and LC were local Santa Monica ballot measures. It is clear that they never had anything to do with the FAA since that is a federal agency. Measure D was put forth by the national aviation lobby to try to tie the City Council’s hands permanently so they could not change anything about the airport ever again. Measure LC was the antidote for D, placed on the ballot by Council in close collaboration with the community. It simply ensures Council retains the right to make changes at the airport up to and including full closure, but adds the unique protection that if any land is freed up, it can only be used for parks or recreational use unless a general election vote authorizes something else. No other land in the entire City is so well protected from development as SMO due to LC passing. It was a historic and absolutely essential victory.

      Unfortunately, the dual election victories relate only peripherally to the on-going war with the FAA and the aviation lobby (other than being a huge and very expensive defeat for the latter). That war goes on and will no doubt continue for many years. The main difference the election made was it sent a mandate from the people of Santa Monica, it utterly destroyed what could have been a final victory at the local level for the aviation lobby, and it put in place the ultimate insurance policy against bad things happening on any land the City does manage to pull back from aviation use. We already see LC in effect with the 12 acres of tie-downs that are about to become a new park and playing fields starting July 1st.

      People should not feel helpless, we scored an unprecedented and massive victory against overwhelming odds, one that continues to be studied closely by others trying to figure out how it happened. We proved that people are not helpless even in the face of million dollar budgets and dirty tricks brigades from wealthy special interests – all it takes is collaboration, organization, and a huge amount of work.

      Bottom line – at the City level, our battle with SMO is effectively won and we have the City’s full support, at the federal level the war will no doubt continue in the courts and elsewhere for many years to come. Ultimately I am confident that we, and by ‘we’ I mean the allegiance between the people and the City of Santa Monica, will win that war also, but it won’t end next month, far from it.

      Here are some links to the site for information on the ballot measures and election:

  6. Ben

    The 3 Parcel Strategy is right on. The Strategy on 2 of 3 Parcels is right on. The Strategy on the 1948 Parcel is NOT right on. It isn’t optimal for a variety of reasons.

    Council needs to dissect the 1948 Parcel, just like they dissected the entire Airport land. If they dissect the 1948 Parcel down to the smaller issues they will find they have a lot of strategic levers to play. But it takes work. Hard work. Work the Council won’t do and that they depend on Staff to do. However, Staff is less interested in what Residents want.

    The discussion comments above miss at least one very critical element, in my opinion. The FAA may oppose the City Council. However, the FAA is only as powerful as we the people and Congress allows them to be. If the FAA is the opposition to the City at this point, and Congress has power over the FAA, then the Council should be working better with our elected reps in Congress. Right now they aren’t. Lieu and Bass are doing good right now for the local community. It seems that Council should listen to the guidance of Lieu and Bass on managing the FAA. And you know what Lieu and Bass have stated which was rejected by Council. That is a problem.

    The Federal Government is never going to take over this piece of Santa Monica. It’s just not going to happen, even if the IoT allows them to (but it doesn’t). It’s simply not politically viable for the FAA to take over any part of SM. Could you imagine the headlines!!!

    The Federal Government has much bigger issues to worry about right now. The FAA is in trouble already financially and organizationally. They are on thin ice and they aren’t going to put any political capital on a meaningless, costly General Aviation Airport like the one in Santa Monica.

    Let’s work better with Lieu and Bass on dealing with the cluster f__k that is the FAA.

    1. John Post author

      There is a clear legal basis for treating the 3 parcels separately, unfortunately that is not the case for dissecting the 48 parcel. Thus such a dissection would inevitably draw a lawsuit and an injunction with a corresponding multi-year freeze of the status quo while it is all resolved. None of us want that. We all hope congressional representatives Lieu and Bass can make a difference, as do you, but the fact is that Henry Waxman was one of the most powerful congressman, and over the years similar meetings between the City, the FAA, and Waxman, resulted in no improvements. Therefore even while we pursue and support it, we need to be realistic about how much and how fast things may really change by that means, and in the mean time we need to pursue all strategies that work in both the best and the worst case scenarios, and which do not precipitate the worst. Nobody believes the federal government is going to take over the land under any scenario. It seems clear that we need to push forward on all fronts while resisting the temptation to see one strategy as a magic bullet. There are no magic bullets.

      1. Ben

        My suggestion is NOT to dissect the 1948 Parcel. Is to dissect the various issues on the 1948 Parcel. For example, all these following issues can be treated as individual matters: fuel, type of fuel, leases, subleases, size of runway, emissions, safety requirements, runway safety zones, hangars, tie downs, hours of operation, noise levels, operational reporting, passenger reporting requirements, passenger security screening, etc. All these and many other levers can be adjusted to be more or less stringent. Even more effective would be for SM to assert it’s “proprietary exclusive” right to provide any and all services at any level of service.

        1. John Post author

          All those issues and strategies are on the menu going forward, and always have been. The question is should any of them be applied right now on July 1st. My personal opinion is that the answer to that is no. Lets establish the new “status-quo” whereby all leases on the 48 parcel move to market rates, subleasing ends, leases acknowledge future changes to aviation services, and where all other gains made have been consolidated, so that any future lawsuit/injunction cannot freeze the current unacceptable state. Then and only then should we take further steps, since each step brings added risk of litigation and a freeze, regardless of how strongly we might believe we have the right to do whatever it is. Eventually when the freeze comes, as historical precedent tells us it will, at least we’re better off while we wait for our ultimate inevitable victory to go through the lengthy legal appeal process.

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