Santa Monica's Attempt To Ban Jets

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Already noise-conscious, busy Santa Monica airport (SMO) just north of LAX is set to adopt a city council ordinance prohibiting category C and D aircraft (those aircraft with approach speeds of 121 knots or more, but less than 166 knots) from using its sole 4,973-by-150-foot runway in spite of a letter from the FAA that calls the move "flatly illegal." With a Dec. 5 meeting set for SMO representatives and the FAA, the issue may yet end in court. Category C and D aircraft (Gulfstream IV, Challenger and Citation X aircraft, and the like) account for about 8,500 operations per year at SMO and half of its jet traffic. Violation of the ordinance, which the Council says is proposed for safety concerns, would incur a $1,000 fine. The FAA has stated it will use "all available means" to prevent implementation of the ordinance. Proponents say the FAA's own guidelines call for runway safety areas of 1,000 feet at either end of runways accommodating category C and D aircraft. Santa Monica presently has none ... but it does have homes within 300 feet of the runway's ends.

Regardless, the FAA sees SMO as a "federally-obligated reliever airport" and is clearly posturing to suggest it will take action. The December meeting will send a delegation from Santa Monica that includes its city attorney to Washington to discuss the issue. Many involved in the dispute do not believe the December meeting will provide a definitive outcome, but expect a court battle may follow.