Aircraft emission impacts in a neighborhood adjacent to a general aviation airport in southern California

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Nov 1;43(21):8039-45. doi: 10.1021/es900975f.


Real time air pollutant concentrations were measured downwind of Santa Monica Airport (SMA), using an electric vehicle mobile platform equipped with fast response instruments in spring and summer of 2008. SMA is a general aviation airport operated for private aircraft and corporate jets in Los Angeles County, California. An impact area of elevated ultrafine particle (UFP) concentrations was observed extending beyond 660 m downwind and 250 m perpendicular to the wind on the downwind side of SMA. Aircraft operations resulted in average UFP concentrations elevated by factors of 10 and 2.5 at 100 and 660 m downwind, respectively, over background levels. The long downwind impact distance (i.e., compared to nearby freeways at the same time of day) is likely primarily due to the large volumes of aircraft emissions containing higher initial concentrations of UFP than on-road vehicles. Aircraft did not appreciably elevate average levels of black carbon (BC), particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PB-PAH), although spikes in concentration of these pollutants were observed associated with jet takeoffs. Jet departures resulted in peak 60-s average concentrations of up to 2.2 x 10(6) cm(-3), 440 ng m(-3), and 30 microg m(-3) for UFP, PB-PAH, and BC, respectively, 100 m downwind of the takeoff area. These peak levels were elevated by factors of 440, 90, and 100 compared to background concentrations. Peak UFP concentrations were reasonably correlated (r(2) = 0.62) with fuel consumption rates associated with aircraft departures, estimated from aircraft weights and acceleration rates. UFP concentrations remained elevated for extended periods associated particularly with jet departures, but also with jet taxi and idle, and operations of propeller aircraft. UFP measured downwind of SMA had a median mode of about 11 nm (electric mobility diameter), which was about half of the 22 nm median mode associated with UFP from heavy duty diesel trucks. The observation of highly elevated ultrafine particle concentrations in a large residential area downwind of this local airport has potential health implications for persons living near general aviation airports.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Aircraft*
  • California
  • Geography
  • Meteorological Concepts
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Time Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter