As the City races to demolish nearly 1,500 feet of runway at Santa Monica Airport in an attempt to cripple jet operations, the country’s largest aviation business organization is making an urgent plea to halt the construction.
The difference in runway length would lead to a near-total ban on jets at SMO, according to new court documents filed by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Up to 95.8 percent of current jet operations would no longer be possible and 37.6 percent of turboprop operations, according to estimates. That’s a total of 17,000 annual flights that would relocate to other airports.
This week, the NBAA has filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. for a stay and an injunction on the project. The NBAA has asked the court to review an unprecedented settlement between the City and the FAA to shorten the runway to 3,500 feet and eventually allow SMO to close in 2029.
“Multiple businesses that are based at SMO and those headquartered in its vicinity, provide employment for thousands from the surrounding area,” The NBAA’s western representative Stacy Howard said in a statement. “Curtailing aviation access to this vital airport would terribly impact them and hurt Santa Monica’s economy.”
After years of litigation over the future of SMO, the City Council and the FAA announced an unprecedented settlement agreement in January that dissolved all lawsuits and contracts between the two sides by Dec. 31, 2028, effectively allowing SMO to close on that date. The consent decree also allowed the City to shorten the runway and take over airport services and fuel sales.
Last week, the City Council approved a contract to begin the design phase of work to shorten the runway from 4,900 feet, including an interim option that would shorten the length immediately by simply changing the striping. The consultants are scheduled to produce concepts to show the Council by this spring with a goal of construction by the fall. The Council ultimately hopes to demolish any excess pavement near the landing strip to make changes difficult to reverse.
“We believe the NBAA’s objections are without merit and are moving ahead with our Consent Decree commitments,” Mayor Ted Winterer said in an email to the Daily Press.
In court documents, the NBAA argues the FAA did not follow its own guidelines when reaching a settlement with the City. Among the guidelines, the NBAA argues the FAA should have examined the environmental impact of shifting jet traffic to other airports. In addition, the agreement may have been subject to consultation from the Department of Defense, which has an interest in airport capabilities in the case of war or national emergency.
“By spearheading this action to restrict, and ultimately close, a significant and vital Southern California airport, the FAA failed to abide by its own mandate to defend national aviation infrastructure,” NBAA’s CEO Steve Brown said.
Other parties to the petition include the Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA), aircraft maintenance facilities Bill’s Air Center, Inc. and Kim Davidson Aviation, Inc., Redgate Partners, LLC and Wonderful Citrus, LLC.