Entities At Odds Over Safety, Limited Flights
The City of Santa Monica, CA
and the FAA are at odds after the airport commission voted
unanimously last week to cordon off nearly 1,200 feet of runway,
ostensibly to enhance safety at Santa Monica Municipal Airport...
despite an FAA 'suggestion' the city reduce by half the 900 feet of
recommended safety area.
The commission voted April 23 for 600 feet on each end of the
5,000-foot runway be designated a safety area, to prevent aircraft
from overrunning the tarmac. This move restricts a large part of
the airstrip, and could limit jet traffic into the busy
City officials and airport commission members said they had been
"blindsided" by the FAA's suggestion.
"I voted for it because it produces safety areas at either end
of the runway, and it will protect Los Angeles and Santa Monica
residents," Commission vice-chair Susan Hartley said this week.
Hartley declined to comment to the newspaper regarding what
impact, if any, the recommendation may have on potential air
FAA officials made an unusual appearance at the commission's
meeting last month and informed them reserving larger safety zones
would limit flights, particularly by jets, and therefore would not
be allowed. Santa Monica is seen as a critical reliever airport for
LAX, according to Santa Monica's Lookout News.
"There is a balance in terms of regional access," FAA district
official Brian Armstrong said. "Any action that may restrict that
access through the installation of (safety systems) and Restricted
Safety Areas is not acceptable."
According to airport officials, setting aside 300 feet more than
the originally proposed 300 feet on the west-facing end of the
runway could potentially impact even more traffic, as 90 percent of
all take-offs are towards the Pacific Ocean.
FAA officials told the
City in March to reduce the footage on the west end from 300 feet
to 165 feet, an area comprised of arrested collapsible concrete.
Then, on the less frequently used east-facing runway, the 600 feet
of proposed restricted strip would have to be reduced by several
hundred feet to give more take-off and landing room for planes.
Chiming in on the controversy, several pilots and businesses say
restricting the runway would restrict their ability to carry cargo
and fuel as well as passengers while private groups maintain jet
take-offs have increased over the last twenty years to more than
18,000 in 2004 thus increasing the risk of accidents.
This isn't the first battle featuring the city of Santa Monica
and the FAA. There is an ongoing altercation stemming from a 2002
city ordinance that eliminates larger and faster aircraft from even
using the airport.
It's still unclear what consequences this new resolution will
bring. Federal officials claim federal authority overrides local
ordinances even though the City actually owns the land.
Responses are expected from the FAA by August 3, Hartley said.
Many agree the City Council, and City Manager Lamont Ewelle, could
be facing a showdown with the FAA if this resolution is