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“Facts Not Cats” – NBAA Letter to the Santa Monica Daily Press

July 20, 2014

Your July 15 reader’s letter, which attempted to create an analogy between operations at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and domestic cat ownership, to support complaints about activity at the airport, is at odds with history, with current operations and with the safety record for business aircraft traffic at SMO and elsewhere.

The entrepreneurs and companies that rely on an airplane for business at SMO would prefer to focus on facts, not cats, when discussing matters related to the airport, and here are a few relevant facts about SMO.

Santa Monica Airport has always been a dynamic, commercial enterprise – military and airline aircraft manufactured at the airport by the former Douglas Aircraft began operating there in the 1930s, up through the famous production line of large, DC-7 aircraft. The first business jets manufactured by Learjet operated at SMO as early as 1963.

The airport has been home to traffic from those aircraft, and others, for several decades, because SMO’s runway was rebuilt by the federal government during World War II to handle large, four-engine transport aircraft, which were flown in support of the American war effort. Those heavy lifters, by the way, were propeller-driven – noisy by the standards of today’s turbine-engine airplanes – and were roughly three times the weight of a business airplane like the Gulfstream GIV.

Also overlooked in your reader’s letter is the fact that annual flight operations at the airport have declined from the 1966 peak year by about 74 percent. This reflects, in part, operations parameters set by the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to limit noise and emissions. In fact, the noisier “Stage II” aircraft that have used SMO will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by quieter, more fuel-efficient Stage III airplanes.

Equally important, the record on the safety of operations for general aviation aircraft, like those at SMO, has been one of continual improvement. The incident cited in your reader’s letter aside, all available data on the two-pilot, corporate-flown business aviation flights like the ones at SMO indicate that those operations are as safe as those conducted by the commercial airlines.

It’s also worth noting that SMO is an important facility in the nation’s aviation transportation system, and the numbers illustrate its value not only to the nation, but to the region: the airport’s operations, based on an annual budget of $4.3 million, support 175 local businesses, 1,500 jobs, and generate an annual economic impact in the community of $250 million.

Here’s the bottom line: aircraft activity at SMO is lower, quieter, cleaner and more economically beneficial to the community than it’s ever been. It’s too bad that these facts were lost in an overly simplistic catfight.

Ed Bolen
President and CEO
National Business Aviation Association