Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

FAA Order Halts Eviction of Tenants Providing Aviation Services at Santa Monica airport

"City signed no leases since 2015, negotiated in bad faith while seeking onerous and unreasonable terms


December 19, 2016

Atlantic Aviation at Santa Monica airport.

Nice try, but no cigar for the City Council. The City filed eviction actions against both FBO's, companies who provide services to the Airport's 272 aircraft, last month.

The City agreed in the 1970's, when accepting Federal funds, that it would make the airport available for public use and benefit. It cannot discriminate against aircraft types or uses and must make space available for aviation tenants on reasonable terms based on good faith negotiations.

"The city has failed to grant any aeronautical leases since 2015 and is alleged to have negotiated in bad faith while seeking onerous and unreasonable terms," according to the cease-and-desist order, which later states that the leasing policy for the airport fails to include aviation.

FAA officials issued an interim cease-and-desist order to stop the ouster of Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers, two major providers of aircraft services, including fuel, flight instruction, hangars and amenities for charter operators. The City had said it would boot the two and provide services itself, an obvious ploy intended to give residents what they want: Permanent airport closure.

City officials have said they intend to close the century old airport by 2018. The tenants have asked a Superior Court Judge to stay the lawsuits against them, pending FAA action.

"We are pleased that the FAA has recognized our client's federally protected right to be at the airport," R. Christopher Harshman, an attorney for American Flyer, told the Los Angeles Times.

"While we are disappointed but not surprised that the FAA has decided to issue this interim order on the pending evictions of Atlantic and American Flyer, we remain committed to replacing private fixed-based operations with public services," said Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vasquez.

The cease-and-desist order (which is signed by FAA officials rather than Federal judges), states that Santa Monica's "unremitting effort" to remove critical aeronautical services and its "hostility" to the sale of leaded fuel still needed by many aircraft is "a clear contravention of law."

The order notes that general aviation aircraft, business jets and turboprop aircraft cannot operate using the fuels approved by the City Council. It further states that the city has no desire to provide all the services offered by the companies, such as flight training.

"The city has failed to grant any aeronautical leases since 2015 and is alleged to have negotiated in bad faith while seeking onerous and unreasonable terms

Santa Monica officials say they are working in "good faith" to provide the services and fuel required by federal regulations. They have 30 days to respond to the FAA's cease-and-desist order.

In late September, the FAA opened a wide-ranging investigation to determine whether the city's so-called starvation strategy for the airport violates its federal obligations that date back to the late 1940s.

Supporters say it is an important part of the County's defense and transportation infrastructure, relieves overcrowding at LAX, and would be vital in a regional emergency, such as an earthquake. Opponents say it is just too noisy.

Opponents contend the airport should be closed because it is noisy, produces harmful smoke from aircraft engines, not to mention the occasional crash in surrounding neighborhoods.

The 227-acre airport has about 270 aircraft and averages 452 takeoffs and landings per day.


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