In March 2008, Santa Monica’s City Council passed an ordinance banning the use of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) by C and D aircraft. This prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue an interim ceast and decist order in May of 2008. In March of 2009 City attorneys asked the FAA to reverse the order in a 4 day hearing, but were unsuccessful.
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.
FAA hearing officer Anthony Palladino, concluded in his May 14 decision that the ordinance 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. He also found that the ordinance is not reasonably justified on grounds of safety because alternative safety measures are available to the City.
Santa Monica reacted to the decision by filing an appeal to the FAA Associate Administrator on May 29. He will now have until July 8 to make a decision on the appeal. Deputy City Attorney Ivan Campbell told the Mirror the City’s appeal is being done “to preserve and reserve our rights to argue in the next forum” which would be the Federal Court of Appeals. Santa Monica now has to decide which federal court to appeal to. Campbell emphasized, “that legal strategic decision hasn’t been made yet.”
The City also attempted to have the Cease and Desist Order lifted by appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but the court denied the request on May 8. This means that C and D aircraft can still take-off and land at the Airport.
Congressman Henry Waxman, whose district includes Santa Monica, added an amendment to H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, to help address safety concerns at the Airport on May 21. His amendment notes the Airport “has no runway safety areas, which are now required by the FAA to reduce damage and loss of life in the event that an aircraft overshoots the runway or fails to lift off.” The lack of these safety areas has become even more dangerous as jet traffic has increased at the Airport because they are larger and faster. He also criticized the response made over the last 10 years by the FAA to help remedy the situation by characterizing it as occurring with delay and with “unfortunate acts of bad faith.” His amendment concludes with a request that the new FAA Administrator quickly address this hazardous situation at the Airport.