The FAA has issued a ruling that will require the city of Santa Monica to keep the historic Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) open at least through 2023.
The ruling was hailed as a victory by general aviation advocates, who have been fighting the city’s attempts to close the Southern California airport.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) filed a “Part 16” complaint with the FAA, challenging the city of Santa Monica’s claim that its federal grant-based obligations expired on June 29, 2014.
The GA advocates asked the FAA to make a formal determination that the $240,600 in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds received on Aug. 27, 2003, extended the 20-year grant-based obligation to continue to operate SMO at least through 2023.
“Santa Monica Airport is a tremendous asset to the community and a vital part of the transportation network in Southern California and beyond,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “This determination is good news for the city’s economy, the region’s transportation network, and the long-term future of the airport.”
“America’s airports are part of a federal transportation system, and this determination highlights FAA’s recognition of the overall importance of grant commitments and demonstrates to other municipalities that recently have attempted to impose illegal restrictions, such as the town of East Hampton, N.Y., the significance of the commitment that airport owners and operators make when accepting federal funds,” said NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown.
“We hope that the city will end its short-sighted efforts to restrict operations at SMO, especially now that they have been declared impermissible,” Brown added. “These measures result in disputes and litigations that are a waste of public dollars.”
SMO serves as a base to numerous aircraft, businesses, flight schools, provides jobs and serves as an important economic contributor to the community. Additionally, SMO is an important reliever airport for the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other airports in the Los Angeles area, NBAA officials note.
In addition to the 20-year grant commitments, the 1948 deed, which transferred control of SMO from the federal government to the city, after substantial improvements made by the federal government during World War II, requires the airport to be maintained for public use in perpetuity. The city unsuccessfully sought to challenge that deed in federal district court, and is currently pursuing an appeal.