2014 Press Releases

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NBAA Files Complaint With FAA on Santa Monica Airport Grant Assurance Obligations

Contact: Dan Hubbard, (202) 783-9360, dhubbard@nbaa.org

Washington, DC, July 3, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and several other parties have filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerning California’s embattled Santa Monica Airport (SMO).

The complaint, formally filed on July 2 with the FAA Part 16 Airport Proceedings Docket, requests that the FAA clarify that the airport must continue to abide by its FAA grant assurances through August 2023, to ensure vital aviation services and facilities remain intact.

“The continuing attempts by the city of Santa Monica to close its community airport fly in the face of their legal obligations and disregard the importance of the airport as a general aviation gateway to Southern California,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “On behalf of our Members, many of whom would be impacted if the airport closes, NBAA will continue to support all efforts to keep SMO open and accessible for those who rely on it.”

The city has received significant federal funding for airport improvements over the years. As recently as 2003, Santa Monica accepted federal funding that obligates the city to keep the airport open and viable for another 20 years. Nonetheless, the city contends that these grant-based obligations ended in June 2014 and are extended only to July 2015 by another agreement with the FAA.

Over the past 50 years, the city has repeatedly attempted to restrict operations at SMO; each time, NBAA has actively supported efforts to preserve access to the airport, and each prior case has been determined in favor of the federal government and airport users.

Most recently, the Santa Monica City Council indicated that it may begin offering only short-term lease extensions to airport tenants, and it is considering prohibiting some aeronautical activities, such as fuel sales or flight training – all of which would violate its binding grant obligations.

That move prompted a letter from NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown to the council, which stated: “These short terms are unjustified and do not appear to comply with the airport’s federal obligations. Generally, airport tenants are entitled to long-term leases at an airport – and in the case of KSMO, Airport Improvement Program grant assurances require it to be operated as an airport through 2023, and the terms of the 1948 Instrument of Transfer further require it to be operated as an airport in perpetuity.” Read Brown’s letter to the Santa Monica City Council in its entirety. (PDF)

The Part 16 complaint filed on July 2 goes on to state: “The complainants’ businesses and operations already have been, currently are, and will continue to be adversely affected by the city’s repeated public announcements of its intention to close or significantly restrict the airport and its operations after July 1, 2015, which effectively discourages investment in and commitment to the airport by current and prospective tenants and users. Formal confirmation of the city’s grant assurance obligations is essential to prevent further, possibly fatal, erosion of the airport’s viability and availability for all users and the general public.”

NBAA’s Bolen said: “We thank the FAA for its continued work to ensure that SMO, as part of a national aviation transportation network, remains accessible to general aviation,” Bolen said. “With this filing, we are requesting the FAA again exercise its authority to determine that the city’s grant assurance obligations remain binding and effective, and that the city must continue to comply with those obligations.”

View a copy of the FAA Part 16 complaint. (PDF)

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 10,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org.

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