“Major negative impact” predicted for operators at SMO


Aircraft operators are being warned to prepare for a “major negative impact” after a district judge lifted an order stopping work to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO).

The City of Santa Monica has been authorised to reduce the length of SMO’s only runway in an agreement with the Federal Aviation Authority, which was announced in January.

Then, at the beginning of this month, senior US district judge Ronald S W Lew, who sits in the US District Court for the Central District of California, issued a temporary restraining order on the project, following a challenge brought by two local flight school students that was supported by the National Business Aviation Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Santa Monica Airport Association.

He has now reversed his decision – lifting the TRO and declining to issue a preliminary injunction – and the NBAA is warning that operators using SMO will face disruption when the project starts on Monday (23 October).

During the first phase of the runway-shortening project, SMO will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, every weekday night from 9pm to 7am, and will operate with a 4,973 ft long runway. During the second phase, the airport will be closed entirely for about ten days and then reopen with a runway 3,500 ft long.

“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 NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure Alex Gertsen.

The NBAA has been engaged in litigation pending before the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, which challenges the settlement agreement reached between the City of Santa Monica and the FAA. It claims that the FAA didn’t follow basic statutory requirements when it concluded the “unprecedented” settlement. If the NBAA wins, the City will have to restore the runway to its original length.

“Santa Monica is an important airport in the national airspace system, and in particular in 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 the area’s residents, businesses, general aviation and the flying public.”