by Mark R. Baker
President & CEO Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
Santa Monica Municipal Airport’s (KSMO) history and location have made it a much-loved facility. In an area marked by suburban sprawl and gridlock, KSMO offers a unique and convenient option for pilots, flight students, medical missions, traveling executives, and many others in the Los Angeles area.
But Santa Monica’s elected officials have waged a war on the airport, trying to close it and making it harder to use. After years of legal filings and battles fought in public, the aviation community was surprised to learned in January that the FAA and the City of Santa Monica entered into an agreement to shorten the runway and keep the airport up and running for the next 12 years, after which the city will have the option to close it – something the current city government has indicated it intends to do.
If you fly out of KSMO, this is a better deal than waking up one day to find X’s gouged in the runway. But for current and future aviators, the local economy, and many others, the possibility of closing Santa Monica is still something worth fighting.
AOPA’s mission to keep KSMO open remains unchanged, and while 12 years is a long time, we are expanding our efforts. We will ensure the city lives up to its obligations. We will educate the community about the airport’s value. And we will work with city officials who will be elected in the future, those who believe in the airport. AOPA will do everything possible to keep KSMO open.
To make sure the city honors the agreement to operate the airport, AOPA is starting a legal effort so we will be able to stand up in court for pilots, airport businesses, and other supporters.
Basically we are going to court to preserve our ability to keep going to court on behalf of the people who use KSMO.
To keep the airport open beyond 12 years, we’ll also have to effectively tell the story of KSMO to the community and convince some residents and elected officials of its value.
KSMO is an economic engine for the city, but the airport also impacts the local community in ways many may not realize. The stories of organ donations facilitated, emergency preparedness, and dogs, which have found a new home through programs like Pilots N Paws, paint a picture of an enormous asset that not only creates jobs, but also inspires and improves lives.
Over the next 12 years we will work to tell those stories to the local community and especially their elected officials. It is no secret that the Santa Monica City Council has been hostile to their local airport, but that doesn’t mean the level of hostility will remain. By educating current and future council members as well as identifying and supporting candidates who understand the value of the airport, we can set the stage to keep KSMO open beyond 2028.
12 years is a long time, and we aren’t going to waste it.
AOPA Regional Fly-In Dates & Locations – 2017
Camarillo, California – April 28 and 29
Norman, Oklahoma – Sept. 8 and 9
Groton, Connecticut – Oct. 6 and 7
Tampa, Florida – Oct. 27 and 28
Each fly-in will now feature two full days of activities, including an expanded roster of learning opportunities and workshops beginning on the Friday of each event at 9 a.m. These workshops will cover a range of topics, such as mountain flying and owner-performed maintenance that will help make flying more fun, affordable, safe, and accessible (www.aopa.org).