AOPA, GAMA Weigh In on SMO Case

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and General Aviation Manufacturers Association have filed amicus briefs backing a lawsuit NBAA and five other stakeholders filed over the FAA’s Santa Monica Airport (SMO) settlement agreement. NBAA and the five stakeholders earlier this year had filed the lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in an attempt to block the January 28 agreement between the FAA and city of Santa Monica over the fate of SMO. The agreement essentially permits the city to immediately shorten the runway and to close SMO in 2028.

NBAA and the stakeholders earlier this month filed a brief in that case, charging that the FAA had disregarded statutory requirements in signing the agreement. In the amicus briefs, GAMA and AOPA agreed with that contention and outlined concerns about the national implications of such an agreement. The FAA has until the end of September to respond, but the agency has requested an extension until October 23.

The GAMA brief noted “statutory and regulatory requirements at issue in this case protect public interest in the national aviation system,” and said, “The decisions underlying the settlement agreement flout [regulatory requirements].” GAMA added it is “concerned about the precedent this case sets not only at Santa Monica Airport but also at other airports.”

The legal framework governing the U.S. airport infrastructure reflects not only the public value of the airport but also that airports are part of a national system rather than “local isolation,” GAMA argued in its brief. It noted the importance of consistent application of airport noise regulations and said, “Allowing the city of Santa Monica to circumvent [such regulation] sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the stability of the nation.”

AOPA also argued for the preservation of the public’s right to enforce compliance with grant agreements, deed restrictions and other commitments. “The settlement agreement appears to negate this important public right and to effectively circumvent the FAA’s mandated responsibility to investigate and enforce compliance with obligations,” the association said. “The FAA cannot avoid the responsibility it owes to the public it serves by modifying the terms of grant and deed-based obligations in a settlement agreement.”

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