Congressman asks FAA, Why Did You Issue That Ruling to Allow the Closing of the Santa Monica Airport . . . ?

By March 20, 2017Uncategorized

US Representative Ralph Abraham is asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to explain why the FAA entered into a settlement agreement with the city of Santa Monica, allowing the city to close the airport in 2028 and shorten the runway in the meantime.

The settlement agreement with the city of Santa Monica by the FAA allows the city to close the iconic airport in 2028 AND shorten the runway in the meantime.The runway shortening to 3,500 feet from the existing 4,973 feet, is estimated to effectively eliminate about 47 percent of jet traffic that currently flies into Santa Monica Airport (SMO). (We predict that that estimated 47% reduction in jet traffic would actually be greater in the interim period and that the city will succeed in an even greater reduction in jet traffic.)

To quote directly from Representative Ralph Abraham’s (R-Louisiana) letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, “This agreement departs from the long-standing principle that the federal government will preserve airport infrastructure and hold airport sponsors accountable, especially when they have accepted federal money and committed to deed-based obligations to operate an airport in perpetuity.” The city had signed a transfer agreement after World War II in which it agreed to continue operating the airport in perpetuity.

“The agency’s congressionally authorized mission includes ensuring that airports remain safe and efficient while also protecting our entire aviation system,” Abraham wrote. “This agreement not only appears to take the opposite approach, but [also] to be inconsistent with agency and congressional requirements that changes to airport obligations be fully publicized and documented. I would appreciate a thorough explanation of the FAA’s apparent departure from this mission.”

SMO is a vital asset as a reliever for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and a critical part of local and state emergency plans said Representative Abraham. “Further, this deal comes at a time when the president has made clear that the renewal of and investment in infrastructure is a top priority for the administration. Could you provide any analysis that the FAA has utilized or prepared regarding the consequences of its actions, such as negative impact on other airports, area residents, businesses, general aviation, the flying public, and the national aviation system?”

Congressman asks FAA to explain itself over its SMO ruling allowing the city of Santa Monica to eventually close the airport!

As we reported last week in our commentary, “Colossal Consequences to FAA’s SHOCKING Santa Monica Ruling . . . In a stunning reversal the Federal Aviation Administration recently did a 180° reversal of its position to enforce the FAA’s Grant Assurances requiring the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to remain open for some additional 11 years.”

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and five other aviation interests have petitioned the U.S. appeals court to review the legality of the SMO-FAA agreement. In their petition they also requested a stay against the FAA and an injunction against the city to halt the city’s efforts to shorten the runway, until the appeals court can conduct its review, according to the NBAA.

As we all know it’s impossible to predict the possible success of the industry group petition. The US appeals court can issue the requested injunction to stop the city from shortening the runway OR it can let the city proceed with its aggressive (as approved by the FAA) plan by simply denying the requested injunction and hearing the merits of the petition at an unknown future court date, which by the way can be potentially after the city has proceeded and possibly completed its aggressive runway shortening plan.

The city of Santa Monica can “place its bets” and “roll the dice” and take aggressive action during this time while our general aviation industry and FBO’s hold their breath for a positive ruling. Without the temporary injunction, the city of Santa Monica politically strongly positions itself if it takes quick aggressive action and then as is often said, pleads for forgiveness. We can assume that if the city does take aggressive action prior to a US appeals court hearing it will have determined that its chances of the FAA ruling in its favor being overturned are slim.

And let’s of course remember the most important part, the US appeals court can simply decline to hear the case. At that point those knowledgeable in legal circles have said the industry and the Santa Monica Airport FBO tenants can hope for their day in Federal District Court. As we all know, our court system moves slowly and a speedy trial or hearing at the appeals court level will neither be quick or timely enough for general aviation and the FBO community both in Santa Monica and throughout our country.

As we said in our earlier commentary, the Federal Aviation Administration ruling to effectively allow the city to close down the airport despite the Grant Assurances in place could have devastating and repetitive future impact on the financial health and viability of the FBO industry and general aviation in general.

No one saw this coming.

Stay tuned, the next chapter in this nightmare for the FBO and general aviation industry hasn’t been written yet. We will keep you posted.

March 16, 2017

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