SMO still billing, despite FAA ruling

 - December 11, 2007, 4:57 AM

Aircraft operators will continue to receive bills from the city for landing at Santa Monica Airport (SMO), despite an FAA finding last month that the city’s landing-fee structure unjustly discriminates against certain types of aircraft. The FAA issued its 60-page ruling to the airport following a complaint filed last year by NBAA and two of its member companies.

“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 manager Bob Trimborn told AIN that the city attorney, who “calls the shots” as far as airport policy is concerned, is reviewing the FAA ruling. Trimborn said he would continue to bill aircraft operators under the existing landing-fee structure. “Until we hear from the city attorney,” he said, “the policy remains at status quo. I understand there are opportunities to extend our response time, and the city is looking at all its legal options.” City fees apply to aircraft starting at 10,000 pounds and the sample listing starts with a Piaggio Avanti on the low end ($3.17) and tops out with a Gulfstream IV ($324.68).

Details on the landing fee structure and rates at SMO are posted on the airport’s Web site at http://pen.ci.santa-monica.ca.us/airport/n_landing_fp.aspx or by going to the airport Web site at www.santamonicaairport.org and searching for the Dec. 21, 2004, landing fee page. The posting reads, in part:

“This revised land [sic] fee program is based upon a relative damage factor scale that relates the negative impacts caused by the weight of the aircraft on the pavement surface. Pavement condition is directly affected by usage and therefore the associated maintenance costs are directly correlated with the weight of aircraft and their impact on the airside surfaces.”