Louisiana Republican Asks For Answers From Huerta, Chao
Louisiana Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham has sent a letter to FAA administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao expressing "deep concern" about the unprecedented settlement between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica, CA over the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO), and asked that the agencies provide the rationale behind it.
Under terms of the settlement agreement announced in late January, the FAA will permit city officials to reduce the length of SMO's sole runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet – restricting access for many turbine-powered aircraft – while requiring the city to operate the historic airfield only through Dec. 31, 2028.
"From my perspective, this agreement departs from the long-standing principle that the federal government will preserve airport infrastructure and hold airport sponsors accountable, especially when they have accepted federal money and committed to deed-based obligations to operate an airport in perpetuity," Abraham wrote. "Could you provide any analysis that the FAA has utilized or prepared regarding the consequences of its actions, such as negative impact on other airports, area residents, businesses, general aviation, the flying public, and the national aviation system?"
Shortly after the settlement agreement was announced, NBAA joined with five other aviation interests at SMO to file a petition asking the U.S. appeals court to review the legality of the agreement. Earlier this month, those stakeholders requested a stay against the FAA, as well as an injunction against the city, to prevent further actions to reduce the runway length while the appeals court conducts its review.
These actions by NBAA and other stakeholders are just the latest responses to the city's repeated attempts to restrict aviation operations at SMO, despite its obligations under federal grant assurances to keep the airport open through 2023, and in perpetuity through a 1948 instrument of transfer.
"We thank Rep. Abraham for calling on the DOT and the FAA to explain the rationale behind this seeming departure from the agencies' own mandate to preserve and protect airports like SMO, as part of our nation's greater aviation infrastructure, and we eagerly await their response," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "NBAA also shares Rep. Abraham's concerns regarding the implications that this may have for the future of other general aviation airports across the nation."
The letter was also sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Subcommittee on Aviation.
(Source: NBAA news release)