July 7, 2014
By AOPA Communications staff
AOPA has joined with aviation businesses, organizations and individuals in a complaint filed with the FAA July 2 to ensure that Santa Monica Airport remains open after 2015.
In a “Part 16” filing with the FAA, AOPA and nine other parties, including actor Harrison Ford—an avid pilot and Santa Monica Airport (SMO) tenant—the National Business Aviation Association, airport tenants, and pilots, voiced their opposition to efforts by the city of Santa Monica to close the airport next year, when the city claims its obligations with the FAA expire.
The FAA has long opposed efforts by the city to limit operations at Santa Monica Airport. Additionally, the Part 16 filing argues that the city’s acceptance of FAA airport improvement funds obligates the city to comply with FAA grant assurances until 2023.
The July 2 complaint states that the city has argued that its obligations to the FAA extend “until July 1, 2015, and it is free after that date to operate or to close SMO entirely at its discretion.”
But, the Part 16 filing states, “The FAA has made it clear, and the complainants believe and contend that the City’s grant assurance obligations extend until August 2023.”
AOPA has for decades been at the heart of efforts to protect SMO, which is a key reliever airport in the Los Angeles area. A vocal minority of residents who live next to the airport has been pressing to close it due to noise and environmental complaints.
But recently airport tenants and local pilots filed a petition with the city that would allow all Santa Monica voters to determine the airport’s future. AOPA has supported that ballot initiative. Polling shows that a majority of voters in Santa Monica, population 91,000, favor keeping the airport open.
“Santa Monica Airport is a vital and historic component in the California and national aviation systems and must remain open,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The airport generates $275 million in local revenue and supports 1,500 jobs, and we know that the vast majority of Santa Monica residents regard it as an asset to their city. The political games played by the city have gone on too long, and we’re hopeful that this Part 16 filing will be one more successful effort in preventing the city from closing the airport in favor of redevelopment.”
Under FAA procedures, a senior FAA official will hear the petition and consider evidence presented by airport proponents and the city before making a finding. That decision may be appealed in federal court.
Airport Improvement Program Funding,
AOPA expressed concern in a meeting with town officials from East Hampton, New York, that restrictions proposed to curb airport noise “overwhelmingly” generated by transient commercial flights would unfairly burden traditional airport users.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Feb. 18 signed into law a bill that will add liability protection for land owners who allow aircraft operations at their privately owned airstrips and farms.
Montana awarded more than $700,000 in grants and loans to airports across the state Jan. 22, reinvesting general aviation fuel taxes into the aviation system.
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