March 23, 2017
Continuing threats of closure at California’s embattled Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) are upending one family’s assets and lifetime worth of work. Even though Kim Davidson, his family and staff have maintained thousands of aircraft at SMO since 1982, the respected service and repair center owner may see the fruits of his labor – and his retirement dreams – disappear.
“Now that we only have month-to-month leases, it will be next to impossible to convince anyone to invest in us,” said Davidson, who launched Kim Davidson Aviation (KDA) more than 35 years ago on the south side of the airport, several years after getting his A&P license. “With no ability to grow and no stability, everything we’ve put into this business is now just worth pennies.”
A “one-stop shop” for most aircraft maintenance and avionics needs that draws business to SMO – including to local restaurants while customers wait – KDA has one large hangar, 16 tie downs and provides everything from oxygen/nitrogen service to supplemental type certificate installations. Davidson employs as many as eight A&P mechanics when business is brisk.
As a long-time certified Cirrus Aircraft service and repair center, Davidson had high hopes for expanding his shop’s capabilities to include servicing the new Cirrus Vision Jet. “With the uncertainty here, month-to-month leases, and necessary investment, I doubt my goal will become reality,” said Davidson.
“The plight of Davidson and his family is another life-altering impact that the city’s actions are having on local employers and their staff,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure.
KDA is one of the SMO businesses that has joined with NBAA in the association’s most recent legal efforts to challenge the unprecedented settlement agreement announced in late January by the FAA and the city of Santa Monica, which requires that the airfield remain open only through Dec. 31, 2028, and allows the city to immediately reduce the length of SMO’s sole runway.
NBAA has been at the forefront of decades-long legal battles countering the city’s repeated attempts to restrict aviation operations at the airport, despite its obligations under federal grant assurances to keep the airport open through 2023, and in perpetuity through a 1948 instrument of transfer.
“I’m walking a tightrope between my family’s future or getting nothing after nearly 40 years’ worth of work,” said Davidson. The repair station owner said that he is optimistic about the current legal efforts. NBAA and the other stakeholders have also requested a stay against the FAA, as well as an injunction against the city, to prevent further actions to reduce the runway length while the appeals court conducts its review.
Nonetheless, Davidson is wary of what the future may bring, and has encouraged his two sons – both aviation maintenance technicians – to find work elsewhere. Even though they grew up “sweeping the hangar floor,” one now works for FedEx and the other for Gulfstream.
“It’s a sad thing for a parent to have to do,” said Davidson.