SMO Runway Shortening Resumes

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After halting a plan last week to start work on shortening the runway at Santa Monica Airport, a federal court has lifted its temporary restraining order, and the work will begin “within the next week,” according to a post on the city’s Facebook page on Tuesday. The court’s order means “the legal complaints raised lack merit,” the city’s airport director, Stelios Markrides, said in a statement. The city plans to shorten the single runway, which is now about 5,000 feet long, to 3,500 feet, which would effectively limit the size of jets that can land there. The airport will be closed after Dec. 31, 2028.

General aviation advocacy groups have lobbied for 30 years to preserve SMO as a viable business airport, while local residents have complained about noise, pollution and fear of crashes. On Wednesday, AOPA general counsel Ken Mead reacted to the new development: “The Santa Monica City Council is now wasting millions in tax dollars on a move that will only increase traffic, congestion and pollution for the citizens of Santa Monica,” he said. “Not only is a lot of money being wasted, but money will also be lost when the restricted use of the airport deprives the citizens of the economic, employment and emergency services advantages that had historically been provided from the airport.”

NBAA's Alex Gertsen, director of airports and ground infrastructure, said the fight isn't over. NBAA is engaged in litigation pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the settlement agreement between the FAA and the city, claiming the FAA didn't follow basic statutory requirements when it concluded the unprecedented settlement. Should NBAA prevail, the city will be obligated to restore the runway. Meanwhile, NBAA said the runway reduction work is expected to begin Oct. 23. The airport will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, Monday through Friday from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time, while the project is underway.

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