A decision by the FAA that the landing-fee structure at California’s Santa Monica Airport (SMO) unjustly discriminates against certain types of aircraft has won praise
from NBAA, which last year filed a complaint with the agency.
NBAA member companies Bombardier Aerospace and Dassault Falcon Jet also filed a complaint about the fees with the agency. They argued that the fee schedule was discriminatory and unlawful.
“The determination made by the FAA is great news for anyone opposed to discriminatory landing fees in the U.S.,” said NBAA president Ed Bolen. “Santa Monica Airport has been unfairly discriminating against business aircraft operators, in violation of federal law. We commend the FAA for upholding the law and supporting the concept of fair and equal access for all airport users.”
The landing fee structure used by the city of Santa Monica for the airport has been the subject of controversy since 2003, when the city implemented a new fee schedule reportedly to fund an “Airside Surfaces Maintenance Program (ASMP)” to maintain airport pavement. Developers of the fee schedule contended that operators of larger aircraft should bear a significantly larger share of the ASMP cost than operators of smaller aircraft.
But the FAA found that the landing-fee schedule at SMO differed from those at most airports. Instead of designating landing-fee increases in consistent, per-1,000-pound weight increments for aircraft, the fee schedule at Santa Monica assigned wide-ranging fees to aircraft of various weights. As a result, operators of certain types of large business aircraft bore a disproportionately and inconsistently high landing-fee cost.
In a 55-page analysis, the FAA concurred, stating that the SMO schedule violates federal law and is “fundamentally flawed in that it fails to provide a reasonable relationship between the revised landing fees and the costs of maintaining the pavement at SMO.” Until the city withdraws its landing-fee structure, Santa Monica Airport will be ineligible for federal funds under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.
The city could appeal the FAA’s ruling, but Bolen said, “We are hopeful that the FAA’s decision will eliminate the need for further, unnecessary legal action for all involved,” adding, “We are pleased that the FAA has taken a strong stand on behalf of business aircraft operators.”