AOPA slams L.A.’s attack on Santa Monica

April 20, 2011

The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution April 20 to build support for legislative or administrative action to alter the departure path because of safety and air pollution concerns, and close flight schools at Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA weighed in with its opposition, saying that the airport has an “impressive safety record” along with operational limitations that mitigate noise, safety, and environmental concerns.

“We are disappointed that the Los Angeles City Council has chosen the path of political grandstanding over an opportunity to engage in a serious discussion about resolving community concerns in a way that allows Santa Monica Airport to continue to serve legitimate aeronautical uses, as it is obligated to do,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy.

The resolution claims that the departure path for Santa Monica airport intersects with those used at Los Angeles International Airport, creating delays in which jets at Santa Monica idle on the airport and “spew high concentrations of air emissions into neighboring West Los Angeles communities.” It also cites safety concerns of having six flight schools at the airport, claiming that they “expose the densely populated local neighborhoods to potential safety hazards of pilot errors or inexperience in aircraft overhead.”

The resolution allows the city of Los Angeles to lobby on Capitol Hill and at the FAA to curtail those operations.

AOPA informed the city council that curfews, alternate departure routes, and maximum noise-level caps already dictate what types of operations and aircraft can be accommodated at the airport. The association also pointed out that the FAA “has essentially held out a blank check to construct additional safety infrastructure,” but the city of Santa Monica has refused.

“A sincere concern for public safety would seek to encourage and implement these safety procedures rather than engage in political posturing,” wrote Pecoraro. He also pointed out that Santa Monica and Los Angeles are responsible for allowing residential development so close to the airport, disregarding “long held best practices for appropriate land use around airports.”

AOPA explained that in addition to being a safe airport, Santa Monica Municipal also contributes significantly to the economy in the Los Angeles area. “In these economically challenging times, the sponsors of this resolution are showing a callous disregard for the many people and businesses whose livelihoods depend on this airport,” Pecoraro continued.

The association requested to take part in discussion regarding the future of the airport and its operations and encouraged the Los Angeles City Council to take some time to examine the airport’s impact and value before taking any action.

AOPA President Craig Fuller is in California and is working to help protect the airport. Fuller met with the airport support group Friends of Santa Monica Airport on April 20 to update them on the issue and AOPA's discussions with the FAA.

AOPA has come to the defense of Santa Monica’s airport numerous times when the city has tried to ban Category C and D jets and blocked efforts in the California state legislature to require additional environmental studies aimed at fostering more operational restrictions.