The outlook for the fate of Santa Monica Airport remains grim, but all hope is not lost. The U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit has referred a controversial agreement between the FAA and the city of Santa Monica, California, to close Santa Monica Airport to a “merits panel” for further review regarding the legality of the settlement agreement.
The ruling defers the FAA’s motion for dismissal of the review, which was made earlier this year by the National Business Aviation Association.
The FAA agreement with the city calls for the airport to be closed by December 31, 2028. The city also gained the right to shorten SMO’s runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet, preventing most jets from using the airport.
NBAA in February argued that the FAA failed to follow established procedures when issuing the settlement order, including consideration of its detrimental effects to operators and businesses at the airport, and to the National Airspace System. Then, in March, NBAA requested a stay to stop the city from shortening SMO’s runway while the court reviewed the settlement agreement.
Though the court denied NBAA’s request for a stay and an injunction to keep the city from shortening the runway at SMO, the court order refers the case to the merits panel for further review, in the process deferring the FAA’s motion for dismissal of the review.
“This order, which recognizes our call to review the underlying case on the settlement agreement, makes clear that the court holds steadfast on the need for a thorough and fair hearing about this unprecedented situation,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “For decades, NBAA has pursued all potential avenues for preserving business aviation access to Santa Monica Municipal Airport, and we will continue to exercise every remaining option for doing so.”