Airports I: FAA Says SMO Is Discriminating

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The FAA last week issued a 60-page order taking the city of Santa Monica, Calif., to task for what the agency has determined are discriminatory landing fees at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO). The order, which the NBAA immediately welcomed, is the latest chapter in a years-long battle between business jet operators and the city, and is a direct result of a series of landing fees that went into effect on Aug. 1, 2003. According to the FAA, the fees are “unreasonable and [result] in unjust discrimination against one group of aviation users to the benefit of another group.” Specifically, the FAA determined that the fees have a significant impact on operators of certain aircraft types, are not warranted by the relatively small increase in jet operations at the airport and are “high by any standard.” "The determination made by the FAA is great news for anyone opposed to discriminatory landing fees in the United States," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "Santa Monica Airport has been unfairly discriminating against business aircraft operators, in violation of Federal law." Last year, the NBAA was joined by two of its members – Bombardier Aerospace and Dassault Falcon Jet – in filing a complaint with the FAA arguing that the fee schedule was unreasonably discriminatory and unlawful. The agency agreed, noting that SMO’s landing fees structure is "fundamentally flawed in that it fails to provide a reasonable relationship between the revised landing fees and the costs of maintaining the pavement at SMO." According to the NBAA, until the city withdraws its landing-fee structure Santa Monica Airport will be ineligible for federal airport improvement funds under FAA's Airport Improvement Program. Alternately, the city may choose to appeal the FAA’s ruling. "We are pleased the FAA has taken a strong stand on behalf of business aircraft operators," Bolen continued. "The business aviation sector contributes greatly to the local economy, and because modern business aircraft are remarkably quiet, business aircraft operators make good neighbors. We are hopeful that the FAA’s decision will eliminate the need for further, unnecessary legal action for all involved."