Washington, DC, Oct. 18, 2017 – Aircraft operators utilizing California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) will soon need to prepare for runway closures and construction, as a District Court judge on Oct. 16 denied a preliminary injunction and dissolved a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the city’s planned runway-reduction project. The city of Santa Monica has been authorized to reduce the length of SMO’s sole runway under the terms of a highly unusual settlement agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in January of this year.
Construction is expected to kick off on Oct. 23. In Phase 1, the airport will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, nightly from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time, Monday through Friday, while the project is undertaken.
During Phase 2 of the city’s plan, dates for which are still being finalized, SMO will be closed entirely for approximately 10 consecutive days. The airport will operate with a 4,973 ft. length runway through Phase 1 and will re-open at the end of Phase 2 with the shortened, 3,500 ft., runway. NBAA members and other operators will need to check NOTAMs regularly and plan accordingly.
Earlier this month, Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California had issued a TRO on the project, in response to the California Brown Act challenge brought by two local flight school students. NBAA and AOPA filed a joint amicus brief and the Santa Monica Airport Association also supported the case.
However, on Oct. 16, the judge reversed himself, declined to issue a preliminary injunction and dissolved the TRO.
“Judge Lew’s decision to rescind the TRO opens the door for the city to act on its plan, but we continue to exercise our legal options for maintaining access to this airport, as we have done for decades,” said Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure.
For example, Gertsen noted, NBAA has separately been engaged in litigation pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the settlement agreement between the FAA and the city, premised on FAA’s obligations under federal law, claiming that the agency did not follow basic statutory requirements when it concluded the unprecedented settlement. Should NBAA prevail, the city will be obligated to restore the runway.
“Santa Monica is an important airport in the national airspace system, and in particular to southern California,” said Stacy Howard, NBAA Western regional representative. “Shortening the runway – which essentially denies airport access to a variety of aircraft operators – will have a major negative impact on area residents, businesses, general aviation and the flying public.”