Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) has the go-ahead to shorten its runway after a judge reversed his earlier decision on the matter.
According to the agreement between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the only runway at the airport will be reduced from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet in length.
Construction for the project will be done in phases. In Phase 1, which is set to begin on October 23, 2017, the construction will happen at night, so that the airport’s runway will be closed to all aircraft, including helicopters, from 9 PM to 7 AM each day from Monday through Friday.
The dates of Phase 2 have not yet been decided, but it is known that it will require the airport to be closed entirely for about ten full days.
Two different flight schools in the area have challenged the plan in the courts, based on the state’s Brown Act, a broad statute that forbids government officials from holding secret meetings to decide issues without the public’s knowledge. They received amicus briefs from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), with addition support from the Santa Monica Airport Association.
Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, initially issued a temporary restraining order on the project earlier this month. However, he dissolved it on Oct. 16, 2017 and declined to issue a preliminary injunction.
“Judge Lew’s decision to rescind the TRO opens the door for the city to act on its plan, but we continue to exercise our legal options for maintaining access to this airport, as we have done for decades,” Alex Gertsen, the NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure, said.
Gertsen adds that they are thus pursuing different legal avenues separately from the other lawsuit.
NBAA officials insist that the FAA did not follow proper procedures when they made the initial deal with the city, and add that the city will be required to restore the runway if they lose the case.
Stacy Howard, NBAA Western regional representative, argues that the plan “will have a major negative impact on area residents, businesses, general aviation, and the flying public.”
The airport’s website provides information about construction plans. NBAA officials suggest that pilots should also check for Notices for Airmen (NOTAMs) if the project does go through.