Complaint filed to keep Santa Monica Airport open

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has joined with aviation businesses, other GA organizations and individuals in a complaint filed with the FAA July 2 to ensure that Santa Monica Airport (SMO) remains open after 2015.

In a “Part 16” filing with the FAA, AOPA and nine other parties, including Actor Harrison Ford – an avid pilot and Santa Monica Airport (SMO) tenant – the National Business Aviation Association, airport tenants and pilots voiced their opposition to efforts by the City of Santa Monica to close the airport next year, when the city claims its obligations with the FAA expire.

The FAA has long opposed efforts by the city to limit SMO operations. Additionally, the Part 16 filing argues that the acceptance of FAA airport improvement funds obligates the city to comply with FAA grant assurances until 2023.

The July 2 complaint states that the city has argued that its obligations to the FAA extend, “until July 1, 2015, and it is free after that date to operate or to close SMO entirely at its discretion.”

But, the Part 16 filing states, “The FAA has made it clear, and the complainants believe and contend that the city’s grant assurance obligations extend until August 2023.”

SMO is a key reliever airport in the Los Angeles area. A vocal minority of residents who live next to the airport has been pressing to close it due to noise and environmental complaints, according to AOPA officials.

Recently airport tenants and local pilots filed a petition with the city that would allow all Santa Monica voters to determine the airport’s future. Polling shows that a majority of voters in Santa Monica, population 91,000, favor keeping the airport open.

“Santa Monica Airport is a vital and historic component in the California and national aviation systems and must remain open,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The airport generates $275 million in local revenue and supports 1,500 jobs, and we know that the vast majority of Santa Monica residents regard it as an asset to their city. The political games played by the city have gone on too long, and we’re hopeful that this Part 16 filing will be one more successful effort in preventing the city from closing the airport in favor of redevelopment.”

Under FAA procedures, a senior FAA official will hear the petition and consider evidence presented by airport proponents and the city before making a finding. That decision may be appealed in federal court.

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