Background

Santa Monica Municipal Airport is located in and operated by the City of Santa Monica, CA. The airport has no commercial service and only one jet center FBO, and is promulgating policies hostile to aviation and particularly to turbine aircraft. The airport aggressively enforces a pre-Airport Noise and Capacity Act (1990) single-event landing-and-takeoff noise rule.

Because SMO now applies noise violations to “operators” versus to particular aircraft, and is strictly enforcing the rule, companies operating multiple aircraft increasingly must reduce fuel loads to ensure continued access. Of course, this scenario inhibits access and reduces the utilization and value of business aviation.

The City of Santa Monica is actively working to restrict operations at SMO, with an ultimate aim to close the airport. The city increased the fine and expulsion regime associated with the rule and previously attempted to interpret original FAA design criteria as a further means of limiting business aviation aircraft. More recently, the city has suggested that it would seek to restrict the sale of leaded fuel and impose other operational restrictions at the airport.

While the city is challenging the applicability of the Surplus Property Act, which would require to keep the airport open in perpetuity, on Dec. 4, 2015, the FAA ruled that the 20-year grant assurances apply through Aug. 27, 2023. In principle, this should mean that the city cannot impose any new restrictions on users and tenants through that date – but the city is likely to appeal the FAA’s decision, as well as look for “loopholes.”

For more information about Santa Monica Airport issues, contact NBAA Director, Airports & Ground Infrastructure Alex Gertsen, C.M. at (202) 737-4477 or agertsen@nbaa.org.