SMO Fee Structure Determined Unlawful
The NBAA Thursday welcomed a decision from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finding that the landing-fee structure at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) unjustly discriminates against certain types of aircraft. “The determination made by the FAA is great news for anyone opposed to discriminatory landing fees in the United States,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Santa Monica Airport has been unfairly discriminating against business aircraft operators, in violation of federal law. We commend the FAA for upholding the law and supporting the concept of fair and equal access for all airport users.”
The landing-fee structure, or “schedule,” used by the City of Santa Monica for the airport has been the subject of controversy since 2003 when the city implemented a new fee schedule, reportedly to fund an “Airside Surfaces Maintenance Program (ASMP)” to maintain airport pavement. Developers of the new fee schedule contended that operators of larger aircraft should bear a significantly larger share of the ASMP cost than smaller aircraft.
However, the FAA found that the landing-fee schedule at Santa Monica differed from those at most airfields. Instead of designating landing-fee increases in consistent, per-thousand-pound weight increments for aircraft, the fee schedule at Santa Monica assigned widely ranging fees to aircraft of various weights. As a result, operators of certain types of large business aircraft bore a disproportionately and inconsistently high landing-fee cost.
Last year, NBAA was joined by two Member Companies – Bombardier Aerospace and Dassault Falcon Jet – in filing a complaint with the FAA arguing that the fee schedule was unreasonably discriminatory and unlawful.
In a 55-page analysis, the FAA concurred, stating that the SMO schedule violates federal law and is “fundamentally flawed in that it fails to provide a reasonable relationship between the revised landing fees and the costs of maintaining the pavement at SMO.” Until the city withdraws its landing-fee structure Santa Monica Airport will be ineligible for federal airport improvement funds under FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. Alternately, the city may choose to appeal the FAA’s ruling.
“We are pleased the FAA has taken a strong stand on behalf of business aircraft operators,” Bolen continued. “The business aviation sector contributes greatly to the local economy, and because modern business aircraft are remarkably quiet, business aircraft operators make good neighbors. We are hopeful that the FAA’s decision will eliminate the need for further, unnecessary legal action for all involved.”