FAA Finds Santa Monica Jet Ban Discriminatory

May 15 2009– Paving the way for a showdown in federal court, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Thursday released a decision that found Santa Monica’s ban on larger, faster private jets “unjustly and unreasonably” discriminates against specific aircraft. City officials, who anticipated the decision, will likely file an appeal with the FAA’s associate administrator for policy, who must make a final ruling by July 8.

If the City loses, as is widely expected, it can then file an appeal in federal court. Thursday’s decision came six days after a federal appeals court on Friday upheld a legal order obtained by the FAA blocking the City from enacting a 2008 ordinance that bans C and D aircraft with approach speeds of between 139 and 191 mph. FAA officials have said the law, which the City Council adopted a year ago, is unnecess ary, illegally discriminates against aircraft types and harms jet operators. City officials counter that it only imposes the federal agency’s own runway standards and is necessary to safeguard neighboring residents who live near the runway.

In Thursday’s decision — which came after a four-day hearing in March — Anthony N. Palladino, a senior FAA attorney and hearing officer, found that the Santa Monica ordinance violated a 1984 agreement between the FAA and the City.
The agreement, Palladino said, gives the federal agency final authority over safety issues at the 63-year-old municipal airport.
Palladino also said the ordinance, which the FAA challenged shortly after it was passed in April 2008, violates the terms of $9.7-million-worth of federal grants received by the airport.
The ban, Palladino wrote, “is not consistent with the city’s obligation to make the airport available for public use . . . to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activity,”
The City’s efforts to enforce the ordinance have been blocked by a cease-and-desist order issued by the FAA and the preliminary injunction upheld last Friday by a federal appeals court.

Friday’s decision left in place a preliminary injunction sought by the FAA in U.S. District Court last year.
The City has called the FAA’s challenge a “legal assault” on an ordinance responding to increasing concerns=2 0that soaring jet traffic — from 4,829 jet operations in 1994 to 15,710 last year — is putting neighboring homes, as well as pilots, in danger.
City officials worry that the larger aircraft could endanger houses that sit less than 300 feet from the airport’s only runway.

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