In the fall of 2017, City Manager Rick Cole, the Mayor Pro Tem, Mr. Winterer and some pricy outside legal help cobbled together a clandestine deal with the complicity of the FAA to administer a dose of slow-acting poison which could sicken and ultimately kill our airport over the course of the next decade. A glance at the media will attest to the near universal unpopularity of this flawed agreement whose only good aspect seems to be that it is uniting aviation interests round the nation as never before to oppose it.
Here’s how we see it.
First and foremost, the FAA appears to be relinquishing its right and eschewing its duty to defend one of America’s premier airports, SMO, after 2028. They have given the City the right to close the airport in just a few short years. The fiction here is that somehow the City Council might change its mind in the next few years and decide to keep the airport. That’s hogwash! The City has been trying to get their hands on this property since Douglas Aircraft left in the 1970’s and now the Federal Government has stepped aside and said they can have it as soon as 2028; this despite specific language to the contrary in the Surplus Property Act.
Not only does this deal give the airport away in a dozen short years, it discards 1500 feet of runway. This seriously erodes the economic underpinning of the airport and makes it unusable for larger aircraft that have been operating legally here for decades, and it may serve to help the City justify closing an “underused” airport in the near future.
The FAA is evidently depending upon the goodwill of the City to comply with all of the terms of this agreement without undo inconvenience or injury to the aviation community and is promising to keep an eye on things. These are two bets, based on painful experience, that we contend give bad odds for the future of SMO.
Just as in 1984, the users and those most affected by these decisions did not have a seat at the table. When asked by Larry Mantle during a recent Airtalk interview on KPPC, Mr. Winterer was asked why it was all done in secret and he answered that if anyone knew what was going on “they would try to stop it”. Well, yes! Everyone is unhappy with this deal–you reap what you sew.
For all of the above reasons and more, we are resisting this poorly crafted, hastily approved travesty of an agreement with vigorous legal action.
Furthermore, we do not believe that the twelve years promised may actually come to pass given the City’s past behavior and the its current rhetoric promising to do everything possible to discourage use of the airport by any and every means including using "security measures" to make access difficult. We believe the City will continue to strangle commerce here until it can make the case to close the airport based on lack of use–a self-fulfilling prophesy. This agreement doesn’t keep planes in the sky, it's pie in the sky!
The FAA has the duty to defend America’s airports yet we do not see that happening here.
We demand that SMO be protected for the foreseeable future, and we demand user input on any future modifications including runway length. We want a seat at the table. We do not wish to be standing outside looking through the curtains on the kitchen window while the Federal Government and the City of Santa Monica prepare to eat our lunch.
We want what will be best for Santa Monica, best for California, and best for America and we believe that is a strong and healthy municipal airport maintained in perpetuity.