March 20, 2014
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd at a recent meeting of the Santa Monica Airport Association, AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn urged airport supporters to speak up and correct misinformation about the airport and its value to the community.
“Those who want to close the airport have had a free pass to spread inaccurate information to the community and the media, and that needs to stop,” said Dunn. “Those who know the airport best—the people who use it—need to stand up and be heard. This airport creates tremendous value for the community. Santa Monica Municipal delivers an annual economic impact of more than $250 million, is home to 175 businesses, and creates 1,500 jobs. People need to understand what’s really at stake if the airport is allowed to close.”
Dunn strongly encouraged airport advocates to seek opportunities to publicly stand up for the airport. Airport opponents have threatened to implement a “starvation” strategy to close the airport by refusing to renew hangar and other leases at the airport, and airport supporters need to enter the public debate.
Since Dunn’s visit, the Santa Monica City Council has scheduled a discussion on the future of the airport and leases on the property at a meeting scheduled for March 25. This is an important opportunity for the aviation community to speak up in support of the airport.
The airport covers 227 acres of land in the heart of Santa Monica. And while some airport opponents hope the land would be turned into a park if the airport is closed, a more likely scenario would put a new high-density business and residential development in the airport’s place.
The city of Santa Monica recently lost a court case designed to lead to closure of the airport. 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. Although the decision was a major victory for airport advocates, it is by no means the last word on the airport’s future and airport opponents immediately announced that they would continue their fight to close the airport.
In the meantime, AOPA remains actively engaged in the effort to preserve the airport. The association joined with the National Business Aviation Association to file an amicus brief in the recent lawsuit, and AOPA personnel regularly meet with community members, pilots, and the FAA.
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
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