Residents Complain About Blade Helicopter Service to Coachella Music Festival
$695 one way seats are sold online from Santa Monica to Thermal
April 18, 2017
If you're affluent enough to pay $695 a seat, you can helicopter from Santa Monica Airport to the Coachella Music Festival this weekend. But some people will not be happy for you.
Several local residents have complained about commercial helicopter passenger service, between Santa Monica Airport and the Coachella music festival. They claim that while charter flights are legal, regularly scheduled passenger service out of a general aviation airport like Santa Monica, is not permitted. They claim JetSuite and Blade have crossed the line.
The company's website confirms that "Blade is now offering flights between LA & The Festival during select weekends in April. Arrive at the festival in no time and soar above traffic. Relax in our custom designed lounge while you wait for your flight. We offer Helicopter and Jet Aircraft flights between the greater LA area, Palm Springs Airport (PSP), and Thermal." https://www.flyblade.com/festival/
"The helicopter airline Blade, which has been operating on the East Coast," writes local resident Alan Levenson, "is offering scheduled service from Santa Monica to Coachella. Blade is using the 3100 Douglas Loop building as a staging area for passengers. This is the former Gunnell facility, now operated by Aeroplex under contract to the City of Santa Monica. The city's building and property is being used to facilitate these flights which are being sold online. Can't make this stuff up," writes Levenson, the founder of No Jets Santa Monica.
Are Blade's flights to Coachella from Santa Monica, illegal? "The question is whether it is legal under FAA regulations, local city ordinances and relevant leases. No clear-cut answer on any of these immediately without knowing more of the facts," responded Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole.
"Evan Licht, President of Blade, returned my call," wrote Cole. "He assured me that they have no plans for scheduled flights at SMO beyond the Coachella weekend. This is the second year they have offered such flights. They are, however, commencing operations in Southern California which will mean brokering traditional charter flights at various airports including ours. We will be taking a close look immediately at ensuring their full compliance with all relevant federal and local regulations," Cole wrote in an e mail.
We reached out separately to Blade for comment and have not yet heard back from them.
Separately, the City has announced a public meeting at 10 am on April 25, 2017 at the Museum of flight, to discuss its plan to reduce the operational runway and Santa Monica Airport to 3500 feet. The move will presumably end jet take offs and landings from the 100 year old airfield.
"This meeting will be led by City of Santa Monica Engineering Staff with the AECOM/AEROPLEX team providing technical support. A concise and focused presentation will be made to provide the Airport Stakeholders a review of the status of the Runway Project and understand the City's plans moving forward," writes Justin Castagna, Aeroplex/Aerolease Group Operations and Project Manager at the Santa Monica Airport.