Court Ruling Helps Preserve Access To Santa Monica Airport


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Court Ruling Helps Preserve Access To Santa Monica Airport

By Eddy Metcalf

January 31, 2011 - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)applauded a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. that marks another step in ensuring that business aviation will have continued access to Santa Monica Airport (SMO). 

In a decision handed down, the court ruled in favor of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) position that the most recent attempt by the officials with the City of Santa Monica to ban "Category C and D" aircraft from SMO violates terms of a grant agreement made when accepting federal funds for the airport (to read courts ruling) 

"The business aviation community welcomes the court's ruling," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "Access to community airports is absolutely critical for companies of all sizes, all across the U.S., and the court's decision helps ensure that this access will be preserved. It will also help ensure that the jobs, access to communities, productivity for companies and other benefits provided by business aviation will continue." 

The court agreed with the FAA's position that the city's controversial ban "unjustly and unreasonably"' discriminates against certain aircraft, which in turn would violate grant assurances accepted by Santa Monica when the city accepted federal funds for the airport. The court's ruling is the latest event in a long fight over business aviation access to SMO. 

The current controversy began in 2008, when Santa Monica city officials adopted a ban against the Category C and D jets from serving SMO on safety grounds. The city's move was immediately challenged by the FAA, which ruled that the airport did not have the authority to impose the ban, and disallowed it from taking effect until the FAA could further consider the matter, with a decision from the agency being subject to a federal court appeal. 

As part of the ensuing court proceedings, Santa Monica officials filed an appeal in 2009 with the Court of Appeals challenging the FAA's ruling against the city. This past April, Santa Monica officials submitted a subsequent brief to the court, and the FAA submitted its response in early June.

That same month, NBAA was joined by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in submitting an appeal on an "amicus curiae," or "friend of the court" basis, which strongly supported the FAA's position in the dispute, and emphasized the FAA finding that Category C and D business jets can safely be operated at SMO.

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