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FAA launches investigation at Santa Monica airport in CaliforniaFAA launches investigation at Santa Monica airport in California

The FAA says it is investigating whether or not Santa Monica Municipal Airport's (SMO) Aircraft Conformance Program violates its federal grant assurance by restricting operations based on aircraft landing speed. Airport officials deny the program is a back-door attempt at noise regulations, but the effect of the program would be to ban 50 percent of SMO's jet traffic. It follows an earlier move by the city to significantly increase fines for violating noise abatement rules.

While the issue centers around jet aircraft access, AOPA strongly opposes these types of restrictions and has been a vocal opponent of both the noise abatement fine increase and the conformance program. "The FAA is taking its duty to enforce federal requirements very seriously," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for regional affairs. "We are pleased to see the FAA acting swiftly to protect the federal investment and investigating airports that fail to follow federal rules and regulations."

The SMO conformance program sets up severe civil and criminal penalties for aircraft operators who violate it.

A letter from David Bennett, the FAA's director of airport safety and standards, to Santa Monica Airport Manager Robert Trimborn says an investigation into the legality of the city-owned airport's program is under way and "strongly recommends" the city not consider implementing it until the investigation is complete.

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