Thursday, April 24, 2008
FAA moves to block ban on fastest jets at Santa Monica Airport
City officials, citing safety concerns, say they will begin implementing the ban today in defiance of the FAA.
By Dan Weikel
The Los Angeles (CA) Times
The Federal Aviation Administration took legal action Wednesday to overturn a ban on the fastest jets that fly out of Santa Monica Airport, including aircraft popular among business executives. FAA officials served the city of Santa Monica with a cease-and-desist order challenging a municipal ordinance passed in November — and effective today — that bars jets with approach speeds of greater than 136 mph. The so-called Category C and D jets include such popular models as the Gulfstream IV, Challenger and Citation X aircraft. They account for about 9,000 landings and departures a year, or about 7% of flight operations.
“We’ve worked very hard for nearly six years to reach an agreement with the city of Santa Monica that addresses their concerns and maintains access to the airport for all kinds of aircraft,” said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman. “We made multiple proposals to the city, all of which the city rejected.”
Citing safety as its paramount concern, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously passed the ordinance last year in defiance of the FAA, which contends the city cannot legally ban the aircraft.
City officials said Wednesday that they intend to implement the ban despite the cease-and-desist order, which could expose the city to a federal lawsuit. Those in violation of the ordinance could be subject to misdemeanor charges, fines and possibly jail sentences. The law will not apply to jets from other areas that landed earlier this week and will depart today.
“We will start enforcing the law and see what happens. This is the council’s decision,” said Santa Monica City Atty. Marsha Jones Moutrie, who sent the FAA a sharply worded letter on Tuesday in response to the agency’s intent to file the cease-and-desist order.
Moutrie wrote that the FAA “is already under criticism and pressure from Congress for putting aviation industry convenience ahead of public safety. The city urges you to change your course and steadfastly put public safety first.”
Council members approved the ban, saying it would protect the public, particularly residents living immediately next to the ends of the airport runway and individuals using and working at the airport.
Residents of Santa Monica and the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles have complained for years that the airport’s location and lack of runway buffers create the potential for a deadly accident.