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City intends to use airport revenue to destroy pavementCity intends to use airport revenue to destroy pavement

City official: Airport preservation ‘not what’s going to happen’ City official: Airport preservation ‘not what’s going to happen’

In the latest edition of the melodrama surrounding Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the City Council has decided to move forward seeking bids to remove pavement at each end of the runway safety area (RSA) of its already shortened runway, funded entirely by airport revenue. But the city’s decision to dip into airport funds for a project that serves zero aeronautical purpose has led aviation groups to fight back once again.

An aerial view shows the updated runway configuration at Santa Monica Airport in California. Photo courtesy of Mark Holtzman, West Coast Aerial Photography.

In a Nov. 30 letter, AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association requested that the FAA look into significant concerns regarding the use of airport revenue to fund the runway shortening from 5,000 to 3,500 feet and the destruction of pavement in the RSA zones at the Santa Monica airport. The letter called out the FAA’s questionable advice given to the city, stating, “Absent a legitimate aeronautical purpose, beneficial to the tenants and users of SMO, the FAA should have concluded, and should now confirm, that costs of runway restructuring are entirely ineligible for funding with Airport revenue. If the City is to proceed with this project, it must do so in sole reliance on taxpayer funds.”

Quoted in its letter was David Cushing, manager of the Los Angeles Airports District Office, who backed the groups’ claims. According to Cushing, pulverizing and stabilizing pavement within RSAs was unnecessary, as it  “'does not appear to advance the interests of aviation safety or airport operations.'” He went on to write that the office suggested the city not assess the costs of the project using aeronautical rates or rents—advice the city ignored.

Even more puzzling is the city’s longtime argument that the airport is unsafe, which it has used as a tool to ensure its closure, yet the city continuously makes decisions that jeopardize public safety, like the move to eliminate RSAs. A study conducted by Dr. Antonio Trani, an expert in air transportation, airport engineering, and simulation and modeling, showed that although accidents at the airport are rare, in the event of a runway overshoot or undershoot, keeping the existing pavement would ensure safety margins for those aboard the aircraft and for nearby neighbors. Over a 10-year period, the existing pavement would be 66 percent more effective in preventing accidents than the proposals under consideration.

“Hope springs eternal in the aviation press that they’re going to get that airport back, and that’s not what’s going to happen.” –Former Santa Monica Mayor and current City Councilman Kevin McKeown

To date, the city has refused to offer a valid explanation of why it intends to pulverize the pavement, other than its relentless pursuit to destroy the century-old airport.

AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Advocacy Jim Coon said, “We hope that the FAA takes this matter seriously and looks into the obvious ineligible use of airport revenue the city is undertaking. Destroying the RSA was not required by the FAA, it does not improve safety, and it serves no purpose to users of the airport. If the city wants to destroy the pavement, it must do so with taxpayer funds.”

Amelia Walsh

Communications Coordinator
AOPA Communications Coordinator Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she comes from a family of pilots and is currently working on her pilot certificate.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, FAA Funding

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