American Flyers is closing its Santa Monica Airport (SMO) flight school on April 15, becoming the second flight school at the Southern California airport to shut down in the past year. Last May the airport’s largest flight school, Justice Aviation, closed after the city paid the school $450,000 as part of an agreement for Justice Aviation to halt a federal lawsuit and withdraw from two Part 16 complaints against the city.
In the case of American Flyers, “They chose to leave on their own for their own reasons,” according to Nelson Hernandez, the city’s senior advisor of airport affairs.
American Flyers operates a flight training academy at SMO and also provides avgas sales from a fuel truck and a self-serve pump. Besides the loss of flight training capacity, a consequence of the company closing its SMO base is that local tenants and transient operators will have to buy avgas from the sole remaining FBO, Atlantic Aviation, unless the city leases the American Flyers property to a new entity or decides to run the fuel service itself.
“We’re looking at the options,” said Hernandez. “This is kind of sudden; we weren’t expecting [American Flyers to leave].” In any case, the city would have to solicit bids for companies to take over the American Flyers FBO. “That’s why we’re thinking about all the different options,” he said.
As of March 21, retail avgas prices at SMO were $5.65 per gallon at American Flyers and $7.79 per gallon at Atlantic Aviation. Asked whether Atlantic Aviation is prepared for the influx of new avgas business, general manager Greg Wain told AIN, “We are aware of the situation and will be prepared if necessary.”