Santa Monica is a lovely city, home to Shutters on the Beach and Casa Del Mar and of course the famous Santa Monica Pier. And Three’s Company.
Santa Monica has an airport that’s played a significant role in aviation history as well.
Santa Monica Municipal Airport (“SMO”) is a general aviation airport six miles north of LAX. It was home to the Douglas Aircraft Company, and their DC-1 through DC-7 aircraft were built there. The airport was where the first plane to circumnavigate the world took off and landed in 1924. During World War II it was disguised as a fake town to throw off enemies who might wish to bomb it.
American Airlines DC-3 Copyright: icholakov / 123RF Stock Photo
Although residents moved there certainly aware of the airport, they’ve long had a tempestuous relationship with it. In 1958 Santa Monica refused Douglas Aircraft’s request to extend the runway, which would have allowed them to produce the DC8 there. Douglas moved to Long Beach.
Home to a couple hundred flights a day, there are no takeoffs allowed between 11 pm and 7am (8 am on weekends). There are noise and operational limits as well (such as no low approaches weekends, holidays, and during the week starting 30 minutes after sunset). But they’ve been doing whatever they can to get rid of flying there entirely, for instance in 2013 they increased landing fees 165%.
They received a federal grant that obligates the city to operate the airport through 2023, although the was a 1948 agreement that gave the city title to the land which required them to keep it for aviation use in perpetuity as well (the city contends a 1984 agreement trumps this, and in any case that the federal government’s initial taking of the land was invalid so cannot enforce restrictions on the property). The FAA insists the airport remain open.
The city tried to ban certain jets from the airport, but a federal appeals court blocked this in 2011. The city is suing to get out of its obligations and shut down entirely, but since that seems a long shot they’re taking matters into their own hands to make it as difficult as possible to operate there. (HT: @danluttrell)
- Asking the FAA “to reduce the length of the 5,000-foot runway by 2,000 feet on the west side.
- “[E]liminating the sale of leaded fuel, adding security, creating a permit system instead of leases for aviation tenants”
- “[C]reation of a city-run operation to replace two private companies that provide aeronautical services such as fuel, maintenance and aircraft storage.” And these city-run services wouldn’t have to market themselves (or presumably be very efficient, low cost, or convenient).
Or they could, you know, stick to their agreements in principle as well as law and residents could internalize that not only was the airport a known issue for over 90 years but many residents likely got better deals than would otherwise have been possible on their homes precisely because of its proximity.