2016 Press Releases

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NBAA Joins in Opposing City's Attempts to Restrict Aviation at Santa Monica Airport

Contact: Dan Hubbard, (202) 783-9360, dhubbard@nbaa.org

Washington, DC, Feb. 5, 2016 – Further countering the ongoing efforts by the city of Santa Monica, CA to curtail aviation-related businesses at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), today the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) joined with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and four airport tenants to file a Part 16 Complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alleging numerous violations of the city's grant-based obligations to SMO, including diversion of airport revenues for non-airport purposes.

"Today we are taking a critical step in the fight to lift the financial burdens and operational restrictions being imposed on the airport and its users," said Alex Gertsen, director of airports and ground infrastructure at NBAA. "The blatant, ongoing practice of mishandling airport finances with the effect of forcing aviation businesses into economic failure must be stopped.”

Among the issues cited in the complaint are actions by city officials to create an untenable operating environment at SMO through "excessive fees and rents,” as well as the city’s denial of long-term lease agreements for aviation-related businesses at the field while, at the same time, giving preferential terms to a non-aeronautical local college with facilities at SMO.

Santa Monica officials maintain such charges are required to pay down $16 million in outstanding debt to the city; the complaint countered that the city's documentation to support the underlying loans does not meet FAA standards, is "deficient or missing altogether,” and that interest on loans assessed by the city exceed rates allowed by the agency.

View the complaint. (PDF)

"Simply put, the city has created a financial structure which imposes enormous, ongoing, unsustainable - and clearly impermissible - financial burdens and deficits on the airport, which historically has operated on a breakeven or near breakeven basis, and but for the city's actions would continue to do so today," added the complaint. "[T]he city regrettably has a long record of seeking to find means by which to restrict operations at SMO, in defiance of its federal obligations - and the current situation at the airport, which indicates that the city has no intention of changing its ways, requires the strictest possible federal response."

Santa Monica officials have made numerous attempts over the years to shutter the historic airport, including repeatedly disputing the terms of the 1948 deed that transferred control of the former Army airfield to the city after substantial improvements were made by the federal government during World War II, and which NBAA understands to require the city to operate SMO as an airport in perpetuity.

In a separate Part 16 proceeding, NBAA and other parties last week countered the city's appeal of a December 2015 determination by the FAA that requires the city to keep the historic airport open at least through 2023, on the basis of the City's 2003 renegotiation of the terms of a 1994 airport grant from the FAA which both incorporated a 20-year term of obligations. View: NBAA Helps Counter Latest City Effort to Close Santa Monica Airport.

"The city of Santa Monica needs to adhere to its federal obligations to keep SMO, a critical, public asset of the national airspace system, viable and accessible to all users and tenants," Gertsen concluded. "NBAA will continue to fight to protect the airport and the vital access it provides to Santa Monica and the greater Los Angeles area, preserving jobs and local aviation businesses that contribute to the local economy."

View NBAA’s SMO resource page

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The association represents more than 10,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org.

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