Members of the House General Aviation Caucus are urging the FAA to protect federally obligated airports and expressing their support for a recent finding that Santa Monica Municipal Airport is obligated to remain open and operating at least until 2023.
Forty House GA Caucus members signed a Dec. 18 letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta expressing concern about efforts by local governments to close or restrict access to small airports like Santa Monica. The letter urges the FAA and federal government to “enforce and defend” its agreements, including Airport Improvement Program grant assurances and Surplus Property Act deeds, both of which affect GA airports nationwide, including Santa Monica.
“The FAA must take all necessary steps to protect and maintain general aviation and commercial service airports in our aviation system, particularly airports that are critical to the national air transportation system and helps air transportation contribute to a productive national economy and international competitiveness,” the letter says. “These airports are a national asset and must be protected and maintained.”
In December 2015, the FAA ruled that Santa Monica is under federal grant obligations until Aug. 27, 2023, contradicting the city of Santa Monica’s assertion that its grant obligations ended in 2014.
“Given the situation at SMO and similar airports throughout the country, we want to make clear our support for the FAA’s position in fighting back against illegal attempts to close airports in circumvention of the requirements of prior compacts between the federal government and local governing authorities, and generally-applicable laws and policies,” wrote the caucus members.
The determination regarding Santa Monica grew out of a formal Part 16 complaint filed by AOPA and others in 2014. The complainants, including the National Business Aviation Association, actor and pilot Harrison Ford, and several aviation businesses and tenants located on the field, argued that the city of Santa Monica was in violation of its federal grant obligations by repeatedly making claims that those obligations expired on June 29, 2014, and asked the FAA to make a formal determination as to the expiration date of the grant assurances.
“We appreciate the support of Representative Sam Graves (R-Mo.), co-chair of the House GA Caucus, and his fellow Caucus members who signed this letter defending our nation’s airports,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “These airports serve their communities and the nation, and it’s vital that airport sponsors live up to their agreements with the federal government and taxpayers.”