Santa Monica’s City Council passed an ordinance that banned the use at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) by C and D aircraft in March of 2008. Ever since then the legality of their decision has been questioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).The Council passed the ordinance due to concerns that the Airport’s facilities were inadequate to safely handle the needs of C and D aircraft (which are usually jet aircraft) and therefore endangered the City’s residents who live adjacent to the Airport and those flying in the aircraft.The FAA alleged that the implementation of the adopted ordinance should not be permitted for a number of reasons including: its preemption under Federal Law; it is not consistent with the terms of the 1984 settlement agreement between the City and the FAA; it is not consistent with the City’s Federal obligation to make the Airport available to all types of aeronautical activities, and it is inconsistent with the Federal obligation of prohibiting exclusive rights to conduct aeronautical activities. Due to these concerns, the FAA issued an Interim Cease and Desist Order in May of 2008. The City then requested a hearing with the FAA regarding the FAA order.The City believes the ordinance does comply with the 1984 agreement between the City and the FAA, that agreements between the FAA and the City were that the Airport only needed to serve A and B aircraft, and that the design of the Airport’s runways violate the FAA’s own standards.The hearing requested by the City of Santa Monica was held in March. Both sides had an opportunity to submit post-hearing briefs by April 14.Friends of Sunset Park, the neighborhood organization whose boundaries include the Airport and households adjacent to the Airport’s runway, stated in a letter to FAA’s Hearing Officer that they “support the arguments made by the City of Santa Monica.”Deputy City Attorney Ivan Campbell told the Mirror that after the Hearing Officer reviews these briefs and other materials, he would render a decision. However, his decision is not the end of the line for this issue because the FAA’s Associated Administrator could either reject or modify the decision.Campbell also mentioned that there were 9,000 C and D operations at the Airport in 2007 and 7,600 in 2008. An aircraft landing or take-off are each considered separate operations. One of the arguments the FAA is making is that SMO helps serve as a reliever airport for LAX jet operations and therefore if jets can’t fly into SMO, it would disrupt the regional airport system. Campbell pointed out that jet operations at LAX have been dropping since 2000 and by 2008 they had dropped 30 percent.
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