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Next steps in the fight for Santa Monica

AOPA is renewing its push to keep the Santa Monica airport open for all general aviation users. The recent agreement between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica allowing the city to close Santa Monica Municipal Airport at the end of 2028 took the flying community by surprise. While the deal will keep the embattled airport open for at least 12 more years, AOPA is laying plans to keep it open even longer.

Santa Monica Municipal Airport photo by Mike Fizer.

“This is a complex problem requiring work on many fronts,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “It’s a case for divide and conquer—AOPA will work with a range of groups and local stakeholders on a spread of efforts to keep Santa Monica Airport open beyond 2028.”

In the past, the city has tried to strangle the airport using tactics including stopping the sale of avgas and evicting tenants. Even since the deal was signed, Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer said the city will continue to utilize every possible loophole to reduce traffic at the airport.

AOPA wants to guarantee that third parties have the ability to represent pilots in court to ensure the city lives up to its legal obligations under the agreement to operate the airport.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta recently said Santa Monica must ensure “reasonable and customary business practices” at the airport, and AOPA will hold the city accountable for any attempts to deviate from the agreement.

“AOPA intends to seek participation in the recently filed D.C. Circuit case by submitting an amicus brief so we can emphasize to the court the importance of third-party enforcement of the agreement,” said AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead. “Essentially, we are going to court to make sure we’ll be able to enforce the agreement.”

AOPA also will work to explain the importance of the airport to the community.

“Santa Monica Airport is an economic engine for the city, but it also touches people in ways they may not realize,” Baker said. “From organ donation transportation to emergency preparedness, the airport is an enormous asset, and over the next 12 years we will ensure everyone knows what they will be giving up if it goes away.”  

Three numbers: 12, seven, and four. A dozen years is a political eternity during which time a lot can happen. The seven members of the Santa Monica City Council are elected to four-year terms, giving AOPA and other airport supporters an opportunity to work with new council members and identify and support candidates who are likely to advocate keeping the airport open.

“Twelve years is a long time," Baker said. "By focusing on educating the community, working with newly elected officials, and ensuring the city lives up to their obligations, AOPA will do everything possible to keep Santa Monica Airport open.”

Joe Kildea

Joe Kildea

AOPA Senior Director of Communications
Joe is a student pilot and his first solo flight was at AOPA’s home airport in Frederick, Maryland. Before joining AOPA in 2015, he worked for numerous political campaigns, news organizations, and the White House Press Office.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy

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