Safety Problems Identified in Shortened Santa Monica Runway Plan

The city has scheduled May 24 meeting to announce a final construction decision.

Santa Monica Airport
The city of Santa Monica is scheduled to consider runway options after hearing public comments at a May 2 meeting.Santa Monica Smoke/Flickr

A report posted earlier this week on the city of Santa Monica's website highlighted a number of potential safety issues surrounding current plans to shorten Santa Monica's Runway 03/21 per the city's January agreement with the FAA.

The report said, "The 3,500-foot distance shall not include the runway safety areas that shall be constructed and maintained at both runway ends." Depending upon which of two potential design configurations are chosen, the amount of safety buffer area for aircraft departing Runway 21 could be as much as 500 feet shorter. One version also places departure traffic at a higher altitude over the surrounding community than the other.

Other operational concerns claim the shortened runway will not include runway end identification lights or precision approach path indicators, potential safety problems that didn't go unnoticed by one Santa Monica official. "Operating the airport without these (runway) features is contrary to safety standards," said Susan Cline, the city's director of public works in a story published yesterday by the Santa Monica Lookout. "The FAA also indicated an interim phase with one or more of these non-standard features may not be consistent with the consent decree," she added. On Monday, Cline further explained all of the concerns in an information item addressed to the mayor and city council.

One source said the altered runway would demand aircraft back-taxi, then make a 180-degree turn before lining up for takeoff.

The National Business Aviation Association on March 5 joined five other aviation stakeholders in a request to stay the FAA’s agreement with the city. Stakeholder efforts included an injunction against the city to halt any runway work. The city of Santa Monica is scheduled to consider runway options after hearing public comments at a May 2 meeting. The city is then expected to identify its final design choice on May 24.