May 13, 2009
By Dave Hirschman
On the heels of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling that set back Santa Monica’s enforcement of an ordinance banning category C and D aircraft from operating at California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the FAA has reinforced its position against the ban.
On May 14, an FAA hearing officer issued a ruling based on testimony received during an administrative hearing in March. The officer ruled that the city could not ban category C and D aircraft from the airport.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Pasadena, upheld U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu’s injunction last year that allowed the FAA to block enforcement of the ordinance.
Judge Wu determined that Santa Monica’s attempt to ban certain kinds of airplanes from the airport would do “irreparable harm” to the facility’s businesses and disrupt air traffic. He also determined that the city was unlikely to prevail at trial.
City officials had approved an ordinance last year that banned Class C and Class D aircraft (those with approach speeds of 121 knots or more) from Santa Monica Municipal, claiming that they pose a safety hazard. But the city declined FAA offers to install runway barriers to enhance safety. AOPA supports the FAA’s efforts to enforce federal grant agreements and prevent local jurisdictions from imposing nonstandard air safety regulations.
“This is an extremely important case,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “It is a test of the FAA’s ability to enforce grant assurances and prevent airport sponsors from implementing their own set of standards and restrictions at publicly funded airports without following the established FAA process.”
Pilots have formed a user group and launched a petition drive to save Runway 5/23 at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo.
AOPA is urging Santa Rosa County officials who operate Peter Prince Field in Milton, Fla., to revise proposed rules to eliminate potential conflicts.
The new owners of a privately owned, public-use airport in an enviable New Jersey location have big plans, and vacant hangars.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.