Officials with the National Business Aviation Association have urged a federal appeals court to legally void a deal between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica, California, that allows the city to shorten the runway and close the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) after 2028.
At issue is a January 2017 agreement between the FAA and the city that settled outstanding lawsuits and released the city from its federal obligations to sustain the airport.
The NBAA officials assert that the FAA exceeded its authority when making the secret, one-of-a-kind deal by defying the laws set by Congress, as well as the FAA’s guiding principles.
At a May 14, 2018, hearing of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Richard K. Simon, a lawyer representing NBAA and other parties challenging the deal, told the three-judge panel that asking the court to overturn a settlement is the right legal outcome, given that the agreement “runs afoul” of five legal requirements.
Before the city and the FAA reached the settlement agreement, the FAA had maintained that the city’s obligation to preserve SMO endured until 2023 based on federal grant assurances, but also lasted in perpetuity based on obligations included in a 1948 surplus-property deed.
In its court filings, NBAA stated that the FAA offered no explanation for the agreement; failed to engage the public, including airport users and tenants; did not comply with the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990; and violated a number of other statutes.
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said it is critical for those in aviation to lead the effort to protect access to airports.
“We will continue to unwaveringly work to preserve general aviation airports that serve as the bedrock of the U.S. air transportation system,” he said.
Joining NBAA as petitioners are the Santa Monica Airport Association; Bill’s Air Center; Kim Davidson Aviation; Redgate Partners; and Wonderful Citrus. Additionally, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association have filed amicus briefs in support of NBAA.
The appeals court panel is expected to issue a ruling in the case later this year.