Pilots who fly into Southern California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) will soon need to prepare for runway closures and construction, as a District Court judge denied a preliminary injunction and dissolved a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the city’s planned runway shortening project.
The City of Santa Monica has been authorized to reduce the length of SMO’s sole runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet under the terms of a settlement agreement with the FAA announced in January of this year.
Construction is expected to kick off Oct. 23, 2017. In Phase 1, the airport will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, nightly from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., Monday through Friday.
During Phase 2, dates for which are still being finalized, SMO will be closed entirely for approximately 10 consecutive days. Pilot will need to check NOTAMs regularly to plan accordingly, advise officials with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), who have been fighting the runway shortening and airport closing in every way possible.
Earlier this month, Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a TRO on the runway project, in response to the California Brown Act challenge brought by two local flight school students. NBAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) filed a joint amicus brief and the Santa Monica Airport Association also supported the case.
However, on Oct. 16, 2017, the judge reversed himself, declined to issue a preliminary injunction and dissolved the TRO.
“Judge Lew’s decision to rescind the TRO opens the door for the city to act on its plan, but we continue to exercise our legal options for maintaining access to this airport, as we have done for decades,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure.
For example, Gertsen noted, NBAA has separately been engaged in litigation pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the settlement agreement between the FAA and the city. NBAA officials claim the agency did not follow basic statutory requirements when it concluded the unprecedented settlement. Should NBAA prevail, the city will be obligated to restore the runway, association officials note.
“Santa Monica is an important airport in the national airspace system and, in particular, to southern California,” said Stacy Howard, NBAA Western regional representative. “Shortening the runway – which essentially denies airport access to a variety of aircraft operators – will have a major negative impact on area residents, businesses, general aviation, and the flying public.”
View the airport’s website for regular construction updates.