April 11, 2014
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
The city of Santa Monica will appeal a recent court decision that threw out a lawsuit seeking to release the city from its obligation to keep Santa Monica Municipal Airport open and operating. The city attorney announced plans to appeal during a closed-door city council meeting April 8, and the city has until April 14 to file the necessary paperwork.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter on Feb. 13 granted a motion from the Department of Justice and FAA to dismiss the lawsuit to release the city of Santa Monica from its obligation to operate Santa Monica Municipal Airport as an airport. AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association joined forces to file an amicus brief in that case.
Although the decision was a major victory for airport advocates, airport opponents immediately announced that they would continue their fight to close the airport.
“We aren’t surprised to learn that the city attorney plans to appeal, and we’ll keep fighting for the future of this historic and vital airport,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. “Opposition to the airport is coming from a small, vocal minority, many of whom don’t even live in Santa Monica. Surveys have repeatedly shown that the majority of city residents support the airport and want to keep it open, and they don’t want the additional traffic and congestion development would bring.”
Last month, a group of Santa Monica residents took the first step toward launching a ballot initiative that would give city residents a say in the future use of airport property, and AOPA pledged to support the effort. In a March 27 filing, the residents proposed amending the city charter to require voter approval before the city can redevelop airport land.
AOPA has been heavily engaged in efforts to preserve the airport, which delivers some $250 million in annual economic impact, hosts 175 businesses, and is responsible for 1,500 jobs in the city. The field also serves as a vital general aviation reliever airport in the congested Los Angeles Basin. The fate of the airport has broader significance as well: More than 200 airports nationwide operate under similar agreements with the federal government. If Santa Monica is allowed to disregard its obligations and close the airport, other fields could suffer a similar fate.
Director of Government Affairs and Executive Communications Elizabeth Tennyson joined AOPA in 1998, the same year she earned her private pilot certificate. She also holds an instrument rating and enjoys jumping out of planes almost as much as flying them.
Aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin stirred the pot with an Oct. 15 announcement that compact fusion could power vehicles, even aircraft, within a decade. Skeptics were quick to speak up, while Lockheed filed for patents and hopes to find partners in government, academia, and industry.
Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, brought Indiana aviation community members up to date on the association’s initiatives.
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