BY MATTHEW HALL
The Federal Aviation Administration is demanding City Hall temporarily stop efforts to evict a pair of business from the Santa Monica Airport.
Among the City’s many skirmishes with the FAA over the facility is a recent decision to evict business that provide services to pilots and replace them with a municipally owned operation. The two companies in question, Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers, filed complaints with the FAA over the eviction process and the FAA’s interim ruling is to allow the companies to remain open pending a full investigation.
“The FAA issued the Cease & Desist Order to the City of Santa Monica to preserve the status quo while it completes its investigation of the issues in the Notice of Investigation and the complaints filed by American Flyers and Atlantic Aviation,” said Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager with the FAA’s Pacific Division. “The Order blocks the City’s attempt to evict long-standing providers of critical aeronautical services at an important airport in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.”
In the order sent to City Hall on Dec. 13, the FAA states SMO is a critical reliever airport for Los Angeles International, that the closure of SMO would contribute to congestion of the region’s airspace and that activity at SMO is important to regional/interstate commerce.
“In light of the City’s unremitting efforts to evict from SMO critical aeronautical service providers and its hostility to the sale of leaded aviation fuel necessary for flight of today’s aircraft in clear contravention of law, the FAA is issuing this order to maintain the status quo at SMO until a final agency decision is reached,” said the letter.
Local officials responded by saying they remain committed to taking control of the operations.
“While we are disappointed (but not surprised) that the FAA has decided to issue this interim order on the pending evictions of Atlantic and American Flyer, we remain committed to replacing private fixed-based operations with public services,” said Mayor Tony Vazquez in a written statement. “The City of Santa Monica owns the airport, the fuel tanks, the facilities and the hangers. The FAA has consistently recognized the rights of airport owners to exercise an exclusive right to provide services and we are working in good faith to do just that.”
According to the FAA, exclusivity of airport services is illegal but there is an exemption to that rule for airport proprietors such as the City of Santa Monica. The letter said the City’s ability to use the exemption is still under investigation.
With regard to both companies, the FAA’s letter said the City does not plan to take over all aspects of the two businesses which means the companies have a right to remain at the airport. The FAA also states the City is not yet prepared to offer the services it plans to provide which makes any potential eviction premature at this time.
The order does not provide a timeline for a final decision.