Washington, DC, Feb. 14, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today praised a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which halts the most recent effort by the city of Santa Monica, CA, to close down a vital local airfield for general aviation.
On Feb. 13, a federal judge ruled in favor of the position advocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), namely that the city’s challenge to the requirement that Santa Monica Airport (SMO) continue to be a publicly-accessible airport was untimely.
The city has repeatedly attempted to restrict operations at SMO, with each prior case determined in favor of the federal government. The judge’s decision in this case rebuffs the city’s latest effort to find a means to close the airport, but does not definitively resolve the status of the airport. As a result, NBAA will continue to advocate for the airport’s future.
“While we cheer this latest victory in preserving a valuable Southern California airfield, we know that we must remain vigilant and focused in our work to preserve access to this airport, and all airfields in our nation’s aviation system,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said.
In a lawsuit filed last October, city officials asserted that Santa Monica never relinquished ownership to the airport when it leased the property to the United States government for use as a military airfield and manufacturing base ahead of World War II – effectively voiding any subsequent agreements with the FAA requiring the city to maintain the airfield.
The FAA countered that the city’s latest claim was invalid under the Quiet Title Act, which establishes a 12-year deadline for any property disputes brought against the federal government, once the government establishes an interest in the property. That deadline passed more than 50 years ago, according to the agency – a position with which the court agreed.
The court also rejected constitutional claims asserted by the city, holding that a claim for “takings” damages could only be heard in a specialized tribunal, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC. The court further held that the city’s claims of violations of due process and its sovereignty were premature, because the city had not tried to close the airport, and therefore, the FAA had not been called upon to enforce the requirement that the airport remain open.
Shortly before the court ruled this week in favor of the agency’s position, NBAA joined with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in filing a brief of amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court brief, supporting the FAA’s position against the city’s attempts to close SMO. Learn more about the amicus brief filed on Feb. 10.
“NBAA has worked for decades to preserve access to airports, and we will continue to do so at Santa Monica and elsewhere,” Bolen said. “We will remain actively engaged with our Members at SMO, and with national and local government officials, to ensure they hear the business aviation community’s united voice in calling to maintain access to this, and other essential GA airfields.”