Prepares to Respond to FAA
By Lookout Staff
June 5 -- The City this week plans to appeal a determination
by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that a law banning
large private jets from Santa Monica Airport violates the City’s
federal obligations, making it ineligible for grants.
Unless they eliminate the violations, City officials last week
were given 20 days to request an administrative hearing or 30 days
to appeal the determination issued Thursday. If no appeal is filed,
the determination becomes final.
“We’ll probably apply for an administrative hearing,”
said Deputy City Attorney Martin Tachiki. “We’ll make
that decision by the end of the week.”
The FAA’s initial determination concludes that the City's
Ordinance -- which bans jets with approach speeds of between 139
and 191 mph -- is “unlawful.”
“Federal aviation law preempts local ordinances such as the
City's designed to control flight operations and impede safe and
efficient airspace management,” FAA officials wrote.
“The City's Ordinance is an unlawful attempt to manage the
movement of aircraft and control use of the navigable airspace.”
FAA officials countered the City’s contention that the ban
is necessary to protect neighboring residents from runaway jets.
“The City has attempted to justify its action by asserting
that the safety of its community is its highest priority,”
FAA officials wrote. “Safety is also the highest priority
of the FAA.
“The FAA Office of Airport Safety and Standards gave serious
consideration to the City's concerns, and the agency continues to
believe that safety improvements can be made to the runway ends
at (the airport) without interfering with reasonable access to the
airport by aircraft operators.”
By banning all of its C and D category aircraft operations, the
airport “would impact not only its facility, but that of other
airports, all of which are critically tied to air traffic control
and airspace management.”
The FAA also countered the City’s contention that the current
runway safety areas at the 62-year-old municipal airport fail to
meet the agency’s own standards.
“As to the City's argument that it is enforcing the FAA's
RSA (Runway Safety Area) standard, the standard is clearly a safety
enhancement for airports, which is applied to new runway projects
at airports to the degree practicable,” the FAA wrote.
The determination came two weeks after the City asked an Appeals
Court to stay a District Court ruling barring it from enforcing
Filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco,
the application argues that the City “is likely to succeed
on the merits of the case” because, as Airport proprietor,
it has the power to dictate usage of the facility in order to protect
safety, City officials said.
The City has called the federal government’s challenge a
“legal assault” on an ordinance responding to increasing
concerns that soaring jet traffic -- from 4,829 jet operations in
1994 to 18,575 last year -- is putting neighboring homes, as well
as pilots, in danger.