The runway at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) in Southern California got a reprieve when a temporary restraining order was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which stopped the city’s plan to shorten the sole runway at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO).
The TRO came in response to a challenge filed under state law by two flight school students, and supported by the Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA), alleging the Santa Monica City Council did not follow public hearing procedures about the runway reduction project as outlined by the California Brown Act, but rather approved the agreement behind closed doors.
Despite ongoing litigation by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and other parties, the city planned to start the runway shortening project Oct. 9, 2017.
In the last-minute TRO issued Oct. 8, Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew determined the plaintiffs would “likely prevail at trial on the merits of their claim,” noting their challenge raised valid safety concerns over the city’s efforts to shorten SMO’s runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet, including the risks posed to pilots and surrounding neighborhoods by the resulting lower flight paths.
Read the TRO in its entirety.
“This latest development highlights the important role of local and regional advocacy in preserving access to vital community airports,” said NBAA Western Regional Representative Stacy Howard. “NBAA is pleased to see the court respond quickly to the aviation community’s concerns with the city’s shortsighted plan to drastically reduce the usability of this irreplaceable Southern California airfield.”
The city will now have an opportunity to respond to the injunction, with the court expected to hold a hearing on the TRO and determine whether a long-term injunction should be issued within the next few weeks.
NBAA separately has been engaged in litigation before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit alleging the FAA did not follow basic statutory requirements when issuing an unprecedented settlement order earlier this year allowing Santa Monica officials to shorten SMO’s runway, reducing access to most jet aircraft, and to ultimately close the airport completely after 2028.
These arguments contend the agency failed to consider the settlement agreement’s detrimental effects on operators and businesses at the airport, and to the National Airspace System.