(CN) – Santa Monica cannot ban jets from landing at the city’s single-runway airport since it has accepted millions in federal grants based on the continued ability to serve those types of aircraft, the D.C. Circuit ruled on Friday.
The city in Los Angeles County had petitioned the court’s three-judge panel to review the FAA’s 2009 order, which found that Santa Monica was trying to execute a ban on jets in violation of federal contracts. Between 1985 and 2003, the city has obtained $10.2 million in federal funds under the FAA’s airport improvement program.
Santa Monica airport has just one runway and does not offer scheduled passenger service. Rather, it acts as a reliever airport for Los Angeles International Airport. About 7 percent of the operations at the Santa Monica airport relate to business and executive jets, which are classified as having an approach speed of at least 121 knots at maximum landing weight.
The city council tried to close the small airport in 1981, prompting litigation and a 1984 resolution for the airport’s continued operation, which remains in effect until 2015.
In 2008, the city adopted a new law prohibiting jets from landing or departing Santa Monica airport except in emergencies. The FAA took action and won an injunction in California federal court to stall the law. It issued its final determination against the ordinance in July 2009.
Since the city accepted federal funds predicated on making its airport available “to all
types, kinds and classes of aeronautical uses,” the court’s three-judge panel found that the FAA’s order was valid.
There is an exception in the federal contracts that Santa Monica can bar certain types of aircraft for safety reasons, but there is nothing dangerous about the airport’s continued service of jets, Friday’s opinion states.
The FAA presented evidence that the lower classifications of aircraft, which have an approach speed under 121 knots, are more likely than jets to overrun or undershoot, and crash into the airport’s surrounding neighborhood, Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote for the court.