The decades-long efforts by Santa Monica, CA city officials to shutter their airport have taken a toll on yet another well-respected Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) business. Santa Monica Aviation, a long-time airport tenant that provided aircraft maintenance and flight training, is closing its doors for good, another casualty of the city’s long-time efforts to close the venerable Los Angeles reliever airport.
Santa Monica Aviation founder Ali Safai started his company more than 20 years ago to share his love and passion for flying. Inspired to change the flight training experience after earning his pilot’s license, he has taught hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in aviation.
Safai closed Santa Monica Aviation because he had enough of the pressure of trying to run a successful business at SMO. “I’ve invested more than $1.5 million in the company, but all the city’s rules are against me,” he said. “Between rent increases, restricted hours, landing fees, taking away subleases and now shortening the runway, I’m through fighting these battles with the city.”
More than a dozen individuals lost their jobs when Safai was no longer permitted to sublease hangar space. One of his mechanics, who has been with Santa Monica Aviation from the start, is retiring as well. But his former flight instructors and other maintenance technicians have had to find work elsewhere.
For decades, NBAA has been at the forefront of the legal battles to prevent Santa Monica city officials from closing their airport. The association has urged a federal appeals court to legally void a deal between the FAA and local officials, which allowed the city to shorten the runway and provides the option to close SMO after 2028. The court decision is expected later this year.
For Safai, any legal relief that may come at SMO will be too late. Nevertheless, he said, “We would like to thank everyone at NBAA, whose efforts have been a contributing factor in helping protect operators at airports around the country.”
“I love flying and feel that I have made a great contribution to the aviation industry,” said Safai. “Now it’s time for me to move on.”