The US Federal Aviation Administration and the City of Santa Monica, California, are heading for a legal battle over a new city ordinance that will effectively ban larger business jets from using Santa Monica airport from 24 April.
Santa Monica is a key general aviation reliever airport for the Los Angeles area, recording 18,000 business jet operations last year, up from less than 5,000 in 1994. Responding to what it says are concerns about potential runway overruns, the city council last month passed an ordinance that will shorten both ends of the 1,504m (4,973ft) runway to comply with the FAA´s "1,000ft" runway safety area rules, a trade-off that puts a de-facto limit on aircraft with higher weights and approach speeds.
The FAA had been working with the council to address concerns at the airport, offering to install, at government cost, an engineered arresting system at one end of the runway. Constructed of crushable concrete, the 76m arresting bed would stop 90% of larger jets from leaving the runway area in an overrun scenario, says the FAA´s analysis.
In response to the ordinance, the FAA issued the council with an "order to show cause", asking officials to justify breaking a 1984 settlement agreement that requires it to maintain the airport as a viable reliever airport in terms of runway length until 2015.
The settlement followed an attempt by Santa Monica to close the airport in 1981.
The National Business Aviation Association, in a submission to the FAA in February, suggested that limits on business aviation, and not runway safety, were behind Santa Monica´s latest action. "This time, the access restrictions take the guise of addressing putative concerns about the runway safety area," wrote NBAA´s Steve Brown, senior vice-president, operations.