Santa Monica ban cannot stand, FAA rules

 - July 28, 2009, 10:10 AM

The FAA issued a 57-page opinion early last month affirming its decision that the City of Santa Monica, Calif., does not have the ability to prevent certain types of large business jets from operating at Santa Monica Airport. Following a July 2002 recommendation from the Santa Monica Airport Commission, the City Council in March 2008 enacted an ordinance prohibiting operation of approach category C and D aircraft (with approach speeds greater than 121 knots). After the FAA’s legal moves put a halt to the ordinance, the city appealed.

The FAA’s latest decision noted that “The City is bound under Grant Assurance 22 ‘to make its airport available as an airport for public use on fair and reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical uses.’” The city received nearly $10.2 million in federal airport improvement grants through 2003. The category C and D ban, the FAA wrote, “Is unjust and not necessary for the safe operation of the airport.”

The city said that there were 7,670 category C and D aircraft operations last year, which equals about 7 percent of annual operations. About half of those are fractional trips and many of the remainder are charter flights. Before the Santa Monica City Council passed the ordinance last year, the FAA recommended that the city install a 70-knot Engineered Material Arresting System bed at the end of Runway 21, which is the most-used runway at Santa Monica Airport. Other recommendations included creating a pilot awareness program, moving hold lines and buying property to establish a runway protection zone. The city rejected those recommendations and tried to enact the ban. The city had 30 days from the July 8 issue date to appeal.