Santa Monica drops legal battle to ban jets

June 2, 2011

Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and the city council announced that the city would not appeal a federal court ruling upholding the FAA’s decision to allow Category C and D jets to operate at Santa Monica Municipal Airport.

AOPA President Craig Fuller applauded the move, writing to the mayor, “This decision will allow the city of Santa Monica, the FAA, and other stakeholders to return to a meaningful discussion of how best to ensure safe operations at the airport.”

The city had passed an ordinance in 2008 banning Category C and D jets at the airport, but the FAA weighed in, preventing the city from enforcing it. Santa Monica officials appealed the decision; in January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the city’s petition.

While the battle at Santa Monica intensified within the last three years, the city initially sought to ban jets larger than Category B-II in 1979. With the renewed effort to prohibit jets at the airport, officials cited safety concerns as the motivation. AOPA has long maintained that banning aircraft isn’t the right approach.

“As the city of Santa Monica pursues other avenues in discussing safety at SMO [Santa Monica Municipal], we hope your first option will be to sit down with all interested parties to discuss these issues,” Fuller said. “AOPA offers to work with you, the FAA, and all other stakeholders in such an effort. Together, we should be able to plan a future for the airport that addresses legitimate community concerns, allows the city to meet its obligations as the airport sponsor, and preserves SMO’s role as a vital part of the Southern California and national aviation systems.”

Fuller conveyed AOPA’s commitment to safety, explaining to the mayor that “Through our Air Safety Institute and other channels, we also actively work to educate pilots on best practices for safety and ‘Friendly Flying’ in urban environments. General aviation pilots have a strong desire to be good neighbors, and nowhere more so than at SMO.”

During an April meeting with the Friends of Santa Monica Municipal Airport in April, Fuller saw pilots’ dedication to the airport first hand. More than 100 members of the group attended the meeting to learn how to build support for the airport in the local community.

Santa Monica Municipal Airport has received federal grants, which means it must remain open and abide by “fair and reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination, to all types, kinds, and classes of aeronautical uses.”