The City of Santa Monica passed an ordinance to ban larger Category C and D jets from using Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in March of 2008, but despite this ban there was still aircraft charter information for these jets being displayed on the City’s website until late February of this year.
This charter information was only updated after former Airport Commissioner, Susan Hartley, brought it to the attention of the appropriate City officials. Hartley was concerned that by the website displaying this information it was “promoting more flights at SMO” at a time when the City is “engaged in litigation” with the Federal Aviation Administration, because they are challenging the City’s ban on Category C and D jets.
In an interview with the Mirror, Airport Director, Robert Trimborn, stated that the listings on the website were a “public service” and are there to “list the tenants at the airport,” not to promote them. He also stressed that none of the tenants pay any fees to be listed.
In an e-mail to Hartley on February 19, Trimborn noted that the information on the website was going to be updated on February 22 and that only one of the four charter companies listed was still based at SMO. That company, Action Air Express, has only one aircraft, “a six passenger, twin engine piston-powered Cessna 421” which does not fall into the category of the aircraft banned by the City Council. Therefore, listing it on the website would not be in conflict with the jet ban.
An e-mail response to Hartley from City Council member, Richard Bloom, echoed Trimborn’s. He stated that, “in my view, the fundamental and primary purpose of the City’s website is not to promote more flights. It is a simple informational directory of all businesses that are doing business at the airport. I believe we may be precluded from discriminating against one type of business, when that business, whether one approves of it or not, is perfectly legal.” To him eliminating the listing for Action Air Express would have “no effect on aircraft operations of any sort at the airport.”
The Mirror also spoke with the President of Action Air Express, Arthur Rubin. He stated that it’s “not just the rich and famous” that charter private planes. He also has clients who are contractors, attorneys or who work in real estate. They are not just interested in convenience. To them “its all about saving time.”
The City banned the larger jets due to safety concerns because the airport has no runway safety areas to act as buffer zones from homes nearby should an aircraft overrun the runway. When asked about the ban Rubin responded, “with modern technology and the enhancement of safety features they’ve created adds to safety and helps minimize risks.” However, “the risk will always be there.”
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com