Torrance Council Trying To Ban Touch And Goes


The city council in Torrance, California, is trying to ban touch and goes at its airport despite warnings from aviation groups and the FAA that it’s blatantly illegal. Zamperini Field is home to 10 flight schools and the Robinson Helicopter factory. After decades of noise complaints and numerous attempts to whittle down access to the facility, the council turned all objections aside in late October, saying they were carrying out the will of the people. “I believe we are here for the constituents, we represent them,” council member Asam Sheikh is quoted by the Daily Breeze as saying. “We don’t have to be expert on anything when we make decisions. We have to represent the community and that’s the only thing we should be expert on.”

The FAA (whom we’ve contacted for comment) will have something to say about that. Decades of precedent has firmly established aeronautical operations as a federal responsibility and the FAA told the city as much in a 2020 letter. The agency told the city there are ways it can minimize airport noise but telling pilots when, where and how they fly is beyond its jurisdiction. It said the city’s power “does not extend to many aspects of aircraft operations, including route, altitude, time of operation and frequency.”

The FAA is lacking some of the clout it uses routinely to deal with airport operational disputes. Torrance is not federally obligated, meaning it hasn’t recently received federal funding. Acceptance of federal grants always comes with conditions requiring the airport to operate according to FAA rules regarding access and certain operational matters. Violation of those conditions can result in the local jurisdiction having to pay back those grants, which are often in the millions of dollars. The FAA says it will comment further on Wednesday.

In their letter, the aviation groups urged the council to “to avoid the waste of taxpayer funds in attempting to defend clear violations of the law.” Torrance is also attempting to ban the sale of 100LL, imposing landing fees on transient aircraft and capping the number of flight schools on the field. The Daily Breeze reported city staff are aware of all the legal twists and turns and are taking their time to research the impacts of council’s resolution. It could be a year before they report their findings back to the politicians.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. It is my understanding that this airport has been there for quite some time. Longer than any of the whining neighbours, I’d suggest.

    “We don’t have to be expert on anything when we make decisions.” Yes, and it shows that you aren’t.

  2. I soloed at KTOA in 1966 and later obtained additional licenses under the GI Bill. The airport was named after Louis Zamperini, whom I had the privilege of meeting while he was selling his memoirs there. Originally activated on March 31, 1943, it has since played a crucial role in training thousands of pilots. It’s now situated in a densely populated area. It’s disheartening to hear about the proposed operational restrictions.

    • Soloed there in ’59. Was my flying home until we moved out of the area in ’76. Many great memories there.

      • If everyone interprets the rules as laid out in the article then I see your point. However, lawyers get paid to convince others to see a different interpretation.
        Do you remember Mayor Daley and Meigs field?

      • Yes,I did read it. It said “Torrance is not federally obligated, meaning it hasn’t recently received federal funding”.

        Basically the FAA has no jurisdiction since this is a local airport with local ownership. The airport can set it’s own rules of night operations and special event prohibitions that suit it’s people who fund it.

        • Only to a certain extent. Even when it’s not receiving federal funds, there are still certain rules that airports have to follow, such as ensuring equal access to the airport, etc. I’m not sure if prohibiting touch-and-goes is one of those things, though. But if it’s a matter of “prohibit touch-and-goes or shut down the airport”, I know which one I’d go with.

          • Being good neighbors, pilots should follow noise policies. From what I read the policy does not prohibit T&G’s so much as gives times during the daytime to do them.

            Of course no mention of prohibiting stop & go landings at night seems to be in effect.

    • Read the 2020 FAA’s seventy one page letter inserted within the story itself and its explanation of Tiitle 49, U.S. Code part 40103, et seq.and learn how city council resolutions or mayoral decrees line up against one another.
      [ re : ” City owns the Airport]

  3. Aviators are always going to be the minority. So if we were in a democracy, we would be outvoted every time. That’s called the tyranny of the majority.
    Good thing we’re not in a democracy, we’re in a republic.
    Our representatives are supposed to weigh all the arguments, and protect the rights of minorities. Not blindly follow what the majority wants.
    It seems Councilmember Asam Sheikh is not aware of this.

  4. If Torrance somehow pulls off a legal miracle and is successful, they will be the first in a long series of dominos. There are many other politicians in other cities nationwide that are mobilizing a very similar response to their local airport. This anti-noise and anti-lead movement is organizing nationwide.

    The people who are pushing for this have a vision for transforming aviation with autonomous “noise-free” electric urban mobility aircraft with no need for pilots or pilot training, and they are doing everything they can to make this vision a reality. They are claiming this is a “national health emergency”, and calling for a shutdown of pilot training and an immediate end to the sale of 100LL at their local airports. I know, because I have met these people in my state, and they are a very loud minority that the politicians are taking seriously.

    The Torrance city council is not an outlier. This is the beginning of a political and legal storm that will span the country very soon.

  5. The will of the people. That’s rich. See how that’s working for you around O’Hare. People have been whining for years about the noise. Especially after the runway changes.

    Here’s a suggestion. Move. Stop whining. This is a big country. And upon said Move, find a place away from an active airport.

  6. I thought there was a law when a property owner beleives that a situation is so serious that he or she complins publically about a problem then the property owner must disclose this perceieved defiency to any prospective purchaser of the property. I beleive it’s called “if you complain, you must disclose” law.

    Torrance has been around longer than virtually every nearby homeowner. It’s a bit disingenuous to complain about these prexisting problems. Also, people don’t realize all of the noise that’s made on their behalf or for their benefit. Examples are trucks, trains and, yes, even planes that carry those things we use every day for which many people have to tolerate just so have Corn Flakes on the grocery store shelf. Anyway, there’s only highways 405, 710, 605, the 91 and scores of major, heavily traveled surface streets around Torrancwe airpot. Look an aerial view of siuthern California. There’s no shortage of roads and vehicles that use them.

    So, is noise is only acceptable when it benefits those who make it or cause it be done?

    • “So, is noise is only acceptable when it benefits those who make it or cause it be done?”

      For the vast majority of people, that is it exactly. Look at any screaming young kid: only the kid doing the screaming isn’t bothered by the screaming. There’s likely also a bit of jealousy: jealous that they aren’t flying themselves, so therefore everyone else who is is a nuisance.

  7. This Mayor and Council have one thing in mind and that is to close the Airport and sell the land to developers. They are striving to that end by limiting the use of leaded 100LL fuel and now, by attempting restriction upon touch and go landing approaches. Soon will be hour restrictions upon certain flight operations as well.
    Time will tell how successful court and Federal Agency appeals halt their nonsense.

    • Yep, it’s about the money. After a city grows up around an airport, that land is worth unbelievable amounts of money. Even if we all go to silent magical electric airplanes, a reason will be found to eliminate these evil urban airports so that developers can make money.

  8. The defendants money would be better spent getting airport supporters elected to the city council including the mayors seat. The FAA is a political organization (funded by a political congress) and will do what as they always do…..nothing.

  9. The realtor laws should change nationwide. If you buy property and or land within a certain radius of existing airport you waive your right to sue or demand change. It should be a clause in all realty buy/sell. Or there should be some device of caveat emptor in those documents. If you’re ok with the terms then great, if not, then buy somewhere else.

    The comment about ‘we don’t need experts’ is just lame- basically, I don’t care about facts or anybody else’s stake in the matter. Sad

  10. Maybe when quiet electrical airplanes are reliable and available, noise complaints will stop. Oh yeah, I forget. Landlocked airport property is valuable to the wealthy developers who contribute funds to politicians’ campaigns…

  11. The majority of noise from a piston powered airplane comes from the propeller, not the engine(s).

    I fly out of a rural, uncontrolled airport where the vast majority of operations are glider tows. The tow planes running at flat pitch or the one with a very long fixed pitch propeller are ungodly noisy! When I was flying the tow planes, I always pulled the prop back about 50 RPM after getting safely airborne; nobody else does that. They descend and enter downwind with the prop control full forward.

    If we were near a large population area, we’d be in the same boat as Torrance. Pulling the prop back makes a difference. The complainers don’t know the difference between a fixed pitch trainer and a high RPM prop on a high performance plane. They just hear the high-pitched propeller noise. High performance users, be sensitive!

    On our 7,500 foot runway, I pull the prop back about 50 RPM on my Cessna 180 before crossing the departure end and I’m sure it’s easier on the neighbors. It only adds a minute or so to my climb.

    • Good on you. This is a simple thing that can avoid issues to begin with.

      IMHO, GA has dropped the ball in regards to noise. That is, there has been very little consideration of it. It is certainly possible to have quieter engines and props. Steaming around at full-noise in the likes of a C-180 is naturally going to irritate people.

  12. These noise-based battles are inevitable when an airport becomes engulfed by residential housing, and they always take on the characteristics of a religious war. Also inevitable are the two opposing arguments that are trotted out, “We were here making noise when you elected to move in” for the aviation side and “I am entitled to peace & quiet (or put another way, I’m here now, you people have to cease & desist)” for the residential side. Both are backed by powerful emotional arguments, and both are entirely pointless in the scheme of things. It’s a contest of political power, period. Zamperini has a double problem, the fact federal funding can’t be cited and that not being an air carrier airport they lack the backing of the public customer and private corporation interests that brings.

  13. With all the flight schools on this field it just shows that nearby communities have already managed to delete their fields. We need to start thinking of better carrots and sticks or there’s not going to be anyway to land near where anyone wants to go.

    We need cities to at least have a short field somewhere near where people all live. Maybe big enough to get in a caravan at minimum?

  14. 10 Flight Schools on the same field?!?!?

    Holy Jam Packed Airspace Batman!!

    No wonder these folks are ticked off. If the pattern is full to overflowing from dawn to dusk, I’m on the side of the locals. ( Dang it feels weird to say that.) But if that is the case the flight schools should already have done something. Sounds to me like the field is the victim of its own success: or perhaps, overly restrictive regulation at any nearby fields.

    It’s Southern California. I don’t see how any of those airfields (that don’t have scheduled commercial operations) are still open. Or why. The airspace around there would make me want to drive out to the burbs a bit to keep my airplane. The challenges presented by the airspace and traffic levels deserve to be avoided. Keeping a plane in the jam packed LA area is a decision the safety of which I question for non commercial aircraft. And honestly flight training ought not be allowed there – in my opinion of course. There’s not reason to expose oneself to the increased level of risk for non essential operations.

    Closing a few of those airports in the immediate LA area would contribute to safety.

    (Donning my asbestos underdrawers…)

  15. “We don’t have to be expert on anything when we make decisions.”

    Modern governance in a nutshell.

  16. When the FAA didn’t take Santa Monica back into federal ownership, it signaled the end of urban GA airports. In the LA area, Santa Monica is closing (leaving no airport that makes it reasonable to fly to LA’s business districts for a meeting) and now Whiteman is under organized assault. Torrance appears to be next to close and I’ve no doubt some local developer already has plans for Compton. LA will be left with no GA airports west of El Monte.