NBAA-led motion counters FAA challenge to SMO settlement review

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The National Business Aviation Association has joined with five other aviation stakeholders to file a motion before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, requesting a stay against the Federal Aviation Administration and an injunction against the city of Santa Monica, CA preventing any further actions to reduce the length of the runway, and to curtail aviation operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), while the court reviews an unprecedented settlement agreement between the FAA and the city.

On Jan. 28, the FAA and the city announced the two parties had reached a settlement, requiring the historic airfield to remain open only through Dec. 31, 2028, and allowing the city to reduce the length of SMO's sole runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet. NBAA and others filed a petition last month asking the appeals court to review the legality of that settlement agreement.

The filing lodged on Monday (6th March) responds to the FAA's subsequent motion to dismiss that petition, and the agency's assertion that the settlement agreement is not a final order subject to review. In their motion, aviation stakeholders argue that the FAA failed to follow established procedures when issuing the settlement order, including consideration of its detrimental effects to operators and businesses at the airport, and to the National Airspace System (NAS).

"In reaching its agreement with the city, FAA disregarded well-established statutory and regulatory prerequisites to the release of an airport sponsor from federal obligations," reads the filing. "Even a cursory review of the actions taken - and not taken - by FAA finds that the agency did not comply with requirements both basic and mandatory, and thus the settlement agreement is invalid - as would be any actions taken in reliance upon it."

Steve Brown, NBAA chief operating officer, expressed confidence the appeals court would ultimately find the settlement agreement to be flawed. "By spearheading this action to restrict, and ultimately close, a significant and vital Southern California airport, the FAA failed to abide by its own mandate to defend national aviation infrastructure," he added.

NBAA Western Regional Representative Stacy Howard noted that restricting turbine aircraft operations at the airport would jeopardize many existing airport businesses and drive operators from SMO.

"We aren't talking of faceless businesspeople," she said. "Multiple businesses that are based at SMO and those headquartered in its vicinity, provide employment for thousands from the surrounding area. Curtailing aviation access to this vital airport would terribly impact them and hurt Santa Monica's economy."

Other parties to the petition include the Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA), a longstanding proponent for maintaining the airport's current presence; two airport-based businesses, Bill's Air Center, Inc. and Kim Davidson Aviation, Inc.; and Redgate Partners, LLC and Wonderful Citrus, LLC., two operators that frequently utilize SMO.

BlueSky Business Aviation News | 9th March 2017 | Issue #407