How short can an airport’s runway be before it is no longer an airport?
A 1948 agreement between City Hall and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — called the Instrument of Transfer — requires that the former operate the Santa Monica Airport in perpetuity but the July expiration of a 1984 agreement may give City Hall the right to close a portion (The Western Parcel) of the airport and shorten the runway.
City Council discussed shortening the runway at an important meeting last March, but the topic has not been addressed head-on. At last week’s Airport Commission meeting, commissioners discussed the potential options for a smaller runway.
The airport has long been a thorn in the side of the nearby residents, who complain about the noise and pollution created by the aircraft. Some fear for their safety as the runway is located about 300 feet from homes.
Advocates of the airport say it’d be essential in the case of a widespread emergency and claim that it generates revenue for the region.
Some opponents of the airport have suggested a strangulation approach: Keep the airport open but make it less attractive to pilots and eventually it will crumble, they say. Shortening the runway falls within the strangulation approach.
Last March, council voted to move toward chipping away at the airport rather the all-or-nothing goal of total closure. It may bring leases up to market rate. It may regulate environmental impacts of planes and leaseholders alike. Shortening the runway came up as well, but was not discussed at length.
“The City could design and submit for approval a new Airport Layout Plan that would shorten the runway on the western end by excluding the Western Parcel, which is not covered by the Instrument of Transfer,” city officials said in the report to council.
SMO’s runway is already relatively short, according to city officials.
In another section of the March 2014 report to council, city officials reviewed some of the benefits of closing the Western Parcel.
“Shortening the runway,” they said, “would create a buffer between the runway end and the residential neighborhood.”
“Adverse impacts on Airport neighbors would likely be reduced because the shorter runway would impact Airport usage,” they said.
Last Monday, with the agreement expiration only four months away, Airport Commissioners discussed shortening the runway in the midst of a conversation about leases at the airport.
“I’m just pondering about making this really clear that isn’t something that you just sort of play around with,” Commissioner Stephen Mark said. “That it’s going to be not part of the airport.”
“What you would do is, on July 1, 2015, go out there and paint a big white stripe across the runway,” Chair David Goddard responded.
“Or urinate all over it,” Commissioner Peter Donald suggested.
“No,” Goddard said. “A big white stripe and just take it out of aviation use.”
The Airport Commission is absent of any pilots and several members have expressed a desire to close SMO, leading to calls of bias from aviation advocates.
“If it’s just painting a white line on the concrete,” Mark said, “it doesn’t take much for somebody to march in and say take that line off again.”
“That’s true,” Goddard said, “but we’re not trying to violate any of our agreements. We’re exercising our rights. If somebody doesn’t like our rights, they challenge us in court.”
Bill Worden, president of the Santa Monica Airport Association, said that just might happen.
“The Federal government has taken the position that the 1948 instrument of transfer gave the city the entire airport with its 4789′ runway,” he said. “They do not view the 1949 quit claim on the western parcel as relevant and would most certainly step in if the city were to try to close part of the runway.”
Worden said a shorter runway would not be safe for pilots.
“The council may try it anyway and end up back in court,” he said. “They seem to like to do that.”
Mark suggested forming some kind of vision for the Western Parcel.
“I keep thinking that we should be making some plan to do something with that,” he said.
“The City Council agrees with you,” Goddard responded.
“Or urinate all over it,” Commissioner Peter Donald suggested.
Peter Donald you are disgusting
Boy, I can’t *wait* for another four months of FUD and astroturf from the AOPA and NBAA.
If SMO will be less safe with standardized FAA safety zone making the runway too short, then maybe we just don’t have enough space to operate any airport at all.
QUESTION : How short can an airport’s runway be before it is no longer an airport?
ANSWER: Less than 20 feet. See (http://mil-com.me/1B4FwZ2). This shows a 267 ft. landing of a C-130 at 85,000 pounds! It used 745 feet to takeoff at the maximum load. And that was back in 1963. See (http://bit.ly/1EcchWk). This is an aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing, and it’s in production! Airports will be obsolete soon!!!
There’s nothing safer or more useful about a shorter runway. First, it would likely mean lower approaches by aircraft over homes and more aggressive use of reverse thrust by pilots upon landing. Second, many pilots would have to be just as aggressive about applying maximum power on take-off. Both of these scenarios equal more noise, wear and tear on aircraft and the runway, not to mention missed landings, go arounds and smaller safety margins. Third, some have suggested turning whatever portion of runway that Commissioner Goddard suggests can be lopped off, into green space. Interesting idea, but doing anything that attracts birds to the end of a runway is a no-no, unless you’re in favor of ramping up bird-strikes, which can cause engine failure and worse. I’m afraid the commissioners in favor of these ideas are once again at risk of relieving themselves whilst facing a stiff breeze.
I have heard that if SMO is closed, airport traffic headed to LAX from the north will be able to fly significantly lower, resulting in a different source of noise and other pollution. Is this true?
It should be noted that the PERPETUITY ISSUE IS DISPUTED by the City. The federal government leased the land for $1.00 from Santa Monica, who owned and continues to own the land. Can the federal government (the Tenant) demand that Santa Monica (the landlord) use the land in any particular way FOREVER when they vacated the land and returned it to the City???
Peter, come on you fucking terrorist! You just threatened war! You now have war coming terrorist. You started this war. Just wait until my friends that have fought this war in other airport disputes show you fucking punk terrorist!
My remark, “Or urinate all over it,” was in response to Commissions Mark’s comment that one could “scent mark” the parcel in question, which was left out of the above account of the discussion. I don’t usually recommend urinating on something if a simple paint job will do.
Martin, you have a big mouth that spews out lies. You are coward, lying terrorist. You want a civil war, you have one coming terrorist! Ask the anti-American, anti-aviation morons in Salt Lake City in reference to U42 or your terrorist comrades in Hailey, ID. in reference to KSUN. Ask anyone up there what happened when your terrorist buddies tried the same lying argument! You try to take our airplanes….there will be a war!
Without any runway safety areas and without any runway protection zones Santa Monica Airport (SMO) is not and has not been safe for many of those who fly to and from the airport as well as for those who live in the flight path. This airport’s negative impacts, including air pollution effects on the public health from aircraft operations, cannot be mitigated and SMO should be shut down.
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