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AOPA warns Santa Monica it lacks authority for airport restrictionsAOPA warns Santa Monica it lacks authority for airport restrictions

The Honorable Michael Feinstein
City of Santa Monica
City Council Office #200
P. O. Office 2200
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2200

Dear Mayor:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a nonprofit membership association consisting of over 385,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, over 48,143 whom reside in the state of California. A number of our members regularly make use of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in California and the United States.

It is our understanding that the city council will soon consider the implementation of measures that will effectively restrict access to the airport based on airport design criteria issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aircraft approach speeds. AOPA is strongly opposed to such action since the implementation of any airport restriction is solely within the purview of the FAA and not the city. The authority of the FAA in this area is well documented in a number of federal court cases.

On July 22, 2002, the Santa Monica Airport Commission discussed an airport staff report (agenda item 7b) that outlined implementation of an Airport Conformance Program (ACP) based on an FAA airport classification of B-II. The program discussed included certain enforcement measures that include assessment of civil fines as well as criminal prosecution for repeat violations of the ACP.

It would appear that SMO staff have based their recommendations on the patently false assumption that the FAA Airport Design Advisory Circular (AC), AC 150/5300-13, Change 6, is a regulatory document. It is not. Advisory circulars are just that: advisory. The design criteria and airport classifications defined within 5300-13 are beneficial in airport planning as well as project funding requirements. However, the AC is not designed and should not be used as a means to restrict access to any airport. Aircraft operations at an airport by aircraft outside a specific airport design grouping are not inherently unsafe. In fact, many of the aircraft that would be impacted by the ACP have been operating safely at SMO for many years.

No doubt at least a portion of the effort to restrict aircraft operations at the airport is driven by noise concerns in the community surrounding the airport. However, the aircraft impacted by these restrictions are some of the quietest aircraft in today's fleet.

We also believe that moving forward with the ACP and associated restrictions would not be consistent with existing federal law as codified in 14 Code of Federal Aviation Regulations Part 161—better known as the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA). The law provides a very specific process that must be followed before any access restrictions to a publicly funded airport may be put in place. Santa Monica Airport has not yet met the requirements of Part 161.

Additionally, we believe that restricting operations at the airport based on the design category of the airport would not be consistent with the city's federal obligations to provide airport access to the public on reasonable terms without unjust discrimination. Approving and implementing the ACP program would place the city in non-compliance with these federal obligations and could have significant legal and financial ramifications on the city.

AOPA appreciates your taking into consideration our comments. We hope that we have provided information useful in your decision-making and that you will abandon this ill-conceived attempt to restrict public access to Santa Monica Airport.


Bill Dunn

Cc: All council members
City Manager, Susan McCarthy
FAA, Director of Airports Safety and Standards

August 2, 2002

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