As I was reading coverage of the announcement that Santa Monica’s airport is to be closed on Dec. 31, 2028, I couldn’t help but shake my head. Yes, I’m sad. But reading the FAA Administrator’s comments provides a blueprint for opportunity.
When commenting on the agreement, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “This is a fair resolution for all concerned because it strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s interest in making local decisions about land use practices and its interests in safe and efficient aviation services.”
There you have it. The head of the FAA views airports as a local land use decision. And it is. When was the last time the FAA decreed an airport be born where a shopping center stands? Or forced a community to take grant money it didn’t apply for?
Some communities find their airport has more value than a host of other potential opportunities. That’s why they invest and protect. And in those cases, the FAA is more often than not a friend.
I don’t believe the FAA is the enemy. At least not in this case.
The City of Santa Monica — its leadership anyway — made it absolutely clear: We don’t want the airport. And like a weary parent listening to the never-ending tantrum of a child, the FAA finally caved, if for no other reason than to get a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Had the city valued the airport more than a park or business option, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
So what can we do? Like a Flight Review, we should add Airport Investment Reviews to our efforts. In this case, throughout the year, via coordinated effort (I’m looking at you NBAA and AOPA) we meet with area elected and business leaders.
Take them on a tour of the airport in the spring. Take them for a flight in the summer. Show them the contingency plans the area first responders have in place — should the worst happen — and how they plan to use the airport in the fall. Show them the economic impact of the airport. And help them to understand what that impact means in the winter. Rinse and repeat.
But an Airport Investment Review would be hard — like maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We must eat a well balanced diet, get some exercise and a good night’s sleep. Those choices form the foundation of good health. And you can’t do it every now and again. It requires continuous vigilance. While living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee a life free of heart attack, it certainly reduces the chances.
The question is, are we aviators going to let anger cloud our collective abilities, or will we see this as the opportunity it is?
Me? I’m hoping for the latter.