SMO Balks (So Far) Over Safety Feature

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Santa Monica attempted to ban certain business jets from its airport in part due to concerns over safety, but now that a Circuit Court has ruled out the ban, the city's maneuvering could lead it to turn down a safety measure. Ninety percent of airport traffic heads west at Santa Monica and homes sit just 300 feet from the runway's west end. Responding to the city's concerns that those homes might be struck by a larger business jet that overran the runway, the FAA has offered to install a bed of crushable concrete in the safety zone there. (It also noted that in 20 years not a single jet has crashed or run off the runway at SMO.) City officials have not been quick to accept the FAA's offer, and it may take some mental gymnastics to understand why.

The city's current obligations to the FAA are set to expire in 2015. Accepting the crushable concrete bed from the FAA could extend the city's obligation to operate the airport without discrimination (i.e., to allow business jet operations). Meanwhile, the city says it won't accept the offered barrier on the runway's west end unless it gets the same one installed at the runway's east end. The FAA has said that the installation of the barrier at the east end would effectively shorten the runway and restrict the operation of larger jets -- which is what Santa Monica has wanted all along. The FAA has offered to install the crushable concrete bed at the west end, and smaller barriers on the runway's east end. So far, Santa Monica is standing firm.