Aug. 15, 2016

NBAA welcomed an Aug. 15 decision from the FAA reaffirming the legal requirement for the city of Santa Monica, CA to maintain access to historic Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) through at least 2023.

NBAA is among the parties that filed a Part 16 complaint with the agency, challenging the city’s claim that its federal grant-based requirement to continue operating SMO expired in 2014. The response comes following the city’s appeal of the FAA’s earlier, tentative ruling that the city’s acceptance of more than $240,000 in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds in 2003 extended the 20-year timetable for Santa Monica’s obligation to keep the airport open.

“It is indisputable that Santa Monica officials received those grant funds, and the city’s legal obligations under the terms of that policy are equally indisputable,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure. “We thank the FAA for its careful consideration of the issue.”

In addition to the 20-year grant commitments, airport proponents also note that the 1948 deed transferring control of SMO from the federal government to the city under the Surplus Property Act – following substantial improvements made by the federal government during World War II – requires that the airport be maintained for public use in perpetuity. That interpretation is now under challenge by Santa Monica in the federal courts; NBAA has and will continue to support the federal government’s position.

The Part 16 complaint regarding Santa Monica’s federal grant obligation is one of numerous challenges presented by NBAA and other stakeholders to the city’s numerous attempts to curtail operations at SMO and shut down the historic airfield. A second Part 16 complaint, now pending, addresses the city’s gross overcharging of airport landing fees, mishandling of airport finances and failure to offer new leases to aviation-related businesses on the field.

“SMO is a vital aviation resource in Southern California, and an important economic contributor to the community,” Gertsen concluded. “We hope that city officials will now turn their efforts toward preserving a fair and equitable operating environment for pilots and businesses operating at SMO, rather than wasting public funds to mount numerous court challenges focused on the single, misguided purpose of shuttering this important facility.”

View the full decision. (PDF)