Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO)

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Shortened SMO Runway May Affect Airport Noise Readings

Dec. 20, 2017

NBAA urges aircraft operators using California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) to report any noise level warnings and violations they may receive once the airport reopens with a shortened runway later this month.

SMO closed to all traffic Dec. 12 for the runway reduction project. When the field reopens on Saturday, Dec. 23, pilots will find Runway 3/21 shortened from 4,973 feet in length to just 3,500 feet.

The airport has a strict noise-monitoring program that was grandfathered under the 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA). Currently, sound monitors are located approximately 1,500 feet from the departure end of the runway, about 6,500 feet from the current point of the start of the takeoff roll.

Following the runway reduction, however, aircraft departing the shortened runway will start their takeoff roll approximately 735 feet closer to the monitors at either end. Aircraft flying standard departures will pass over the noise monitors at lower altitudes than before, resulting in measured noise levels possibly exceeding the city’s 95 decibel limit.

Violators are subject to penalties ranging from an initial fine of $2,000, through increasing fines, to suspension or exclusion, while operations that approach the 95-dBA limit receive written notices. The city has tried in the past to lower the 95-dBA limit without completion of an ANCA-required Part 161 study measuring the impact from such a reduction, only to be met with rejection by the FAA.

NBAA has advised city officials that keeping the monitors in their current locations, while also maintaining the existing noise limit, amounts to a de facto reduction to the noise limit and a clear violation of ANCA. The association will continue to pressure the city and work with the FAA to ensure that necessary, ANCA-compliant adjustments are made if Santa Monica officials intend to maintain the noise monitoring program.

NBAA encourages operators that receive a warning or violation after SMO reopens to promptly contact Alex Gertsen, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure, at (202) 737-4477 or

"NBAA is continuing its fight against curtailing access to SMO by challenging in court the settlement agreement between the FAA and the city that allows the runway shortening. Should we prevail, this runway reduction will be temporary," Gertsen added.

Shortening the runway will also affect arrival procedures at SMO. Upon reopening, the VOR-A approach will temporarily be the only instrument approach available; amended RNAV approaches will be published with the next navigation chart update on Feb. 1, 2018.