FAA Protects SMO Airport FBOs

Interim cease-and-desist order allows businesses to continue operations, for now.

Santa Monica Airport FBOs
An order has halted the eviction of the two major FBOs at Santa Monica's embattled airport.Pia Bergqvist

The FAA has issued an interim cease-and-desist order to stop the city of Santa Monica from evicting American Flyers and Atlantic Aviation, the two major FBOs at the Santa Monica Airport. The order does not protect the businesses for the long term as it is only “intended to maintain the status quo at SMO until such time as FAA completes its investigation under the [Notice of Investigation] and issues a final agency decision,” Kevin C. Willis, director of the Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, said in the order.

The FAA’s initial investigation has concluded that the services that the city claims it would provide is not sufficient to replace the services currently offered by American Flyers and Atlantic. “The city’s plan to provide aeronautical services is nascent at best,” the order stated.

To support its basis for allowing the two FBOs to continue operating, the cease-and-desist order quotes several sections from Grant Assurance 22, which requires the city to “make the airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination.” The FAA is investigating a list of items related to the airport, including the city’s refusal to issue leases to aviation-related businesses at the airport.

Congressman Ted W. Lieu, who has been public about his support of the closure of the airport, didn’t mince words in his statement regarding the cease-and-desist order. “I am outraged the FAA continues to waste taxpayer dollars fighting with the residents of Santa Monica over the use of the city’s land,” Lieu said. “The people of Santa Monica have made clear their concerns with the airport, and local elected officials have taken appropriate actions to protect the wishes and health of their citizens.”

The statement is puzzling as there has never been a public vote in favor of closing the airport. In addition, the facts are very clear: The city is obligated to continue to operate the airport in perpetuity, not only for the benefit of the citizens of Santa Monica but to maintain a vital component of the aviation infrastructure that is used by people from all over the United States and the rest of the world. The waste of taxpayer’s dollars should not be blamed on the FAA, but on those who continue a futile fight that should have ceased decades ago.