FAA steps in to protect vital California airport

December 3, 2007

FAA steps in to protect vital California airport

By AOPA ePublishing staff

The Santa Monica City Council ruffled feathers last week when it voted to introduce a city law that would ban large aircraft from Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA and the FAA are opposing the move.

"Let me speak very frankly, ladies and gentlemen," FAA Associate Administrator for Airports D. Kirk Shaffer wrote to the Santa Monica mayor and council members. "What you are considering by this proposed ordinance is flatly illegal as drafted."

The proposed ordinance would ban large aircraft from the airport, claiming safety concerns.

"AOPA is very pleased that the FAA has taken a firm position on this issue," said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. AOPA had written the city council in advance of last week's meeting, urging the council to abandon the proposal and work with airport tenants and neighbors to address both parties' concerns. "This ordinance, which could serve as first step toward airport closure, is completely unjustified and violates federal regulations."

The FAA offered once again to provide federal funding to help the city buy property around the airport to develop a runway protection zone. Shaffer, who met with the Santa Monica City Council on Aug. 28, also offered funding at that time.

Shaffer said the FAA would prefer to install an engineered material arresting system (EMAS) at each end of the runway at Santa Monica, if the city does not opt to develop runway protection zones.

"This would be a substantial safety enhancement for [Santa Monica], which can be obtained with the minimum loss of runway necessary for an EMAS bed that meets FAA design standards," Shaffer wrote.

"The bottom line is that the city cannot enforce these kinds of restrictions at a federally funded public airport," said Pecoraro. "Airport neighbors would be better served by a willingness on the part of the city to sit down and talk with the FAA and the aviation community about realistic solutions that could meet the needs of residents and pilots."

December 3, 2007