In the three months since the city of Santa Monica shortened the runway at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in California to 3,500 feet, jet traffic has plummeted by more than 80 percent, the city reported this week. Jet operations at SMO last month numbered just 139, down from the average of 687 jet operations in February 2016 and 2017. Similarly, in January, jet operations had declined to 111, down 84 percent from the prior average of 696 in January 2016 and 2017.
At the same time though, helicopter operations increased 41 percent in February and 33 percent in January from the prior-two-year average, while turboprop operations were up 40 percent in February and 9 percent in January.
Overall operations were down by a little more than 400 in both January and February from their respective prior-two-year averages. February operations numbered 2,219, compared with 2,661 previously, and January operations total 2,116, compared with the 2,551 prior-two-year average. The increased turboprop activity may be an indication of jet traffic beginning to transition to turboprop, said senior advisor to the city manager Suja Lowenthal.
The city in December completed its runway-shortening project as part of a larger plan to set the stage for closing the airport altogether by the end of 2028. NBAA had urged the city to delay the shortening in light of a pending lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals that seeks to overturn an agreement between the city and the FAA that enables not only the runway shortening but also the ultimate airport closure. Oral arguments in that case have been scheduled for May 14, keeping the lawsuit on pace for a decision by year-end.