FAA Says Santa Monica Airport Protected Till 2023

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The Santa Monica Airport, which has become a poster case for protecting general aviation airports, must stay open until at least 2023, the FAA said on Friday. The historic airport, which has been active since 1917, supports about 300 operations a day and is popular with the private-jet set. It’s less popular with local residents in the densely populated community, who have long complained about noise as well as safety and pollution issues. The FAA said when the city accepted a federal improvement grant in 2003, for $240,600, they agreed the airport would remain open for 20 years. The city has 30 days to appeal the decision to the FAA, and then also has the option to appeal that final ruling in federal court.

The airport is a “tremendous asset” to Southern California, AOPA President Mark Baker said in a statement issued Saturday. “This determination is good news for the city’s economy, the region’s transportation network, and the long-term future of the airport,” he added. City officials have made “securing local control” of the airport a primary goal. Rick Cole, who was appointed as city manager in August, asked the city council “for the capacity to take [the airport] on full time,” according to the Santa Monica Lookout. Last week, the city hired Nelson Hernandez, a former senior official at the federal Housing Finance Agency. He fills the newly created full-time job of senior advisor to the city manager on airport affairs. His duties will comprise “analyzing and addressing high-profile health, safety, environmental, economic and security issues as they relate to the Santa Monica Airport,” according to the city’s website. AOPA and NBAA have taken an active role in defending the airport.

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