SMO brief appeals reversal of ban

 - October 9, 2008, 5:11 AM
The city of Santa Monica, Calif., filed an appeal to the court injunction that precludes Santa Monica Airport (SMO) from imposing a ban on Category C and D airplanes using the airport. The city’s ordinance banning such airplanes, with approach speeds greater than 121 knots, is intended to reduce the risk of faster jets landing and taking off on SMO’s 4,973-foot runway, which is hemmed in by houses.

When the city tried to implement the ban on April 24, the FAA obtained an injunction preventing any further action and allowing Category C and D jets to continue operating at SMO while the agency’s administrative proceedings took place. In its appeal, the city noted, “Despite the fact that safety is its primary responsibility, the FAA has denied the City the opportunity to implement the agency’s own runway safety standards.”

The appeal questioned the FAA’s action, wondering if the agency is afraid that “the ordinance will somehow cause other cities to impose access restrictions that will eventually cripple the national air transportation system. Such fear is unfounded. Santa Monica’s factual circumstances, including the total lack of runway safety areas, the proximity of homes to the runway ends, and the topography, are unique.” The appeal went on to say, “Perhaps the agency is battling to protect industry interests and the convenience of the relatively small number of people that prefer to use C and D aircraft and to use Santa Monica Airport. If so, it is a losing battle; federal law does not confer the right to travel by the aircraft one prefers.”

The city’s appeal cited another case, Tutor-Saliba Corp. v. City of Hailey, in which a court last March rejected Tutor-Saliba CEO Ronald Tutor’s attempt to fight local restrictions preventing his Boeing BBJ from landing at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho. Federal law does, said the city, “establish that this is a government of laws; and the FAA must follow them, whatever its motivations. Because it has not, because the agency has acted outside the scope of its authority and in derogation of the City’s proprietary and Tenth Amendment rights, the interim orders and the preliminary injunction should be overturned.”