The Santa Monica Challenge

Concerned pilots, mechanics, air controllers, and others listen to candidates for Santa Monica City Council state their positions on the present and future operations at Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AcmeStudios

I attended a forum last weekend at the Museum of Flying adjacent to Santa Monica Airport in which the Friends of Santa Monica Airport (FOSMO) presented questions to potential Santa Monica City Council members. I was shocked at the lack of factual information with which some of the potential council members are basing their decisions and even more shocked at the unwillingness of some to listen to the facts.

About 125 people showed up to hear what the future may hold for the airport, should the city council members get their way once elected. To eliminate the potential for disruption of the meeting by anti-airport supporters, FOSMO limited the audience to pilots, mechanics, controllers and people involved with aviation related businesses. Of the 13 potential City Council members battling for four open seats, which will be filled as a result of on election scheduled on November 6, 11 showed up for the meeting.

Each member of the panel made an opening statement with regard to his or her view on the future of the airport. It became clear immediately that all but two of the panelists were vehemently against the existence of the airport.

Following the opening statements, several airport-related questions were asked of the panelists. There was no opportunity for the audience to answer, but FOSMO had worded some questions in an effort to inform the uninformed. One example of such a question was "Would you be willing to nominate and actively support one or more pilots to the Airport Commission?" There are no pilots serving as members of the current Airport Commission. The questions were generated mostly by the FOSMO board and presented by one of FOSMO’s board members, John Rosenberg. To limit the time, only three panel members would answer each question.

Many answers used excused such as pollution being produced by the airport and the safety hazard that the airport imposes as reasons to close the airport. A couple of panelists expressed concern that their children would be hit by airplanes falling out of the skies and that children in neighboring playgrounds would be polluted by the exhaust from the airplanes. One panelist made a comment about jets spewing lead over the city. Another said the number of operations have increased at SMO as a result of growth in fractional ownerships of airplanes. Clearly, many of these statements were far from factual.

But what was even more disturbing than the lack of facts was the unwillingness of some panelists to take the truth into consideration when making decisions regarding the future of the airport. Each member of the panel was asked whether he or she would be willing to take actual research into consideration. Most members answered with a simple yes, but several panelists wavered and it became evident that if the data didn’t support their agenda of getting the airport closed, it wouldn’t be considered.

In addition, the panelists were asked if they would be in support of a poll or referendum to get more information about what the majority of the population of Santa Monica would want to happen with the airport. Several panelists would not allow the airport to stay open based on a majority vote, stating that not all citizens of Santa Monica are exposed to the noise and pollution produced by the airport.

Despite the shocking answers of some of the panelists, members of the audience remained composed and nobody spoke in retort. The meeting was orderly and Rosenberg did an excellent job of moderating the questions. Unfortunately it appears that no matter what the facts are and how many people support the airport in its current state, some Santa Monica City Council members will continue to spend taxpayers’ money to fight the FAA in an effort to close this national treasure.

Click here to learn more about the battle to save Santa Monica Airport (

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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