The Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday directed planes at Los Angeles International Airport to take off toward and land from the east instead of the west, as easterly Santa Ana winds blew through the area.

Because it’s safer for pilots to fly into the wind, the reversed configuration at the airport is done occasionally “when the wind direction shifts dramatically or swirls in the other direction,” said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.

The reversal began about 6:30 a.m. and remained in effect after 7 p.m., Montgomery said.

Residents in cities and communities east of downtown Los Angeles may have noticed the planes flying overhead as opposed to taking off over the ocean — the airport’s standard flight pattern due to common westerly winds, Montgomery said.

“We prefer not to send those flights over the communities directly, but sometimes when there’s strong winds, there’s no safer option,” Montgomery said.

The eastern flight pattern happens less than 5% of the time annually at LAX, according to Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency overseeing Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys Airport.

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