Don’t Let Santa Monica Airport Become Another Meigs Field

By Robert Mark on October 6th, 2016

Don’t Let Santa Monica Airport Become Another Meigs Field

In the pre-dawn darkness of March 31, 2003, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s wrecking crews laid siege to Meigs Field, a single 3900-foot runway airport on the western shore of Lake Michigan near the city’s downtown. As the sun rose that morning, the damage became clear, large “Xs” had been carved into the runway by city backhoes. Meigs Field was no more.

An atmosphere of outrage quickly spread throughout the industry for the loss of the little airport, a place made famous around the world when it was chosen as the opening screen for Microsoft’s popular Flight Simulator software.

The AOPA’s president at the time, Phil Boyer said, “”We are absolutely shocked and dismayed. Mayor Daley has no honor and his word has no value. The sneaky way he did this shows that he knows it was wrong.” There was no advance warning of the city’s move, not even to the FAA.

typhoonA Typhoon Passes

Yesterday, Pia Bergqvist shared a post on Facebook that detailed the shutdown of Santa Monica airport’s icon restaurant, the Typhoon, a place that’s been a fixture at SMO for 25 years. The restaurant’s closure simply highlights the latest of the dirty tactics the Santa Monica’s City Council is using to destroy the airport located just north of LAX, a place many in local government have come to think of as an obstacle to urban progress, not to mention a safety hazard.

In order to drive businesses like this from Santa Monica airport, the city nearly tripled the Typhoon’s rent. Other long time tenants like Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers already received eviction notices, with American Flyers filing a Part 16 complaint with the FAA along the way.

What makes the mess at SMO different from what we experienced here in Chicago 13 years ago, is that this time the FAA knows perfectly well what’s happening. The question is whether they’ll take any real non-paperwork action before SMO’s runway’s also destroyed.

The folks at the restaurant explained the city’s squeeze job pretty accurately. “In some quarters, this sort of activity would be seen as a deplorable abuse of municipal power, but in Santa Monica, it is becoming business-as-usual. It’s just too exhausting and disheartening to continue to throw good money after bad into this never ending shell-game of political brinksmanship.”

In a final farewell, the folks that run the Typhoon plan to keep the place open until just after the presidential election November 8.

Enough Paperwork

n3

photo by Zane Adams

It’s high time an FAA official stood front and center at a Santa Monica meeting, like the next one scheduled for October 24 at 7 p.m. Why not Michael Huerta? Just jump on board N3 after lunch and let the council hear the agency’s displeasure from you personally, rather than letting lawyers handle this battle with paperwork. These folks in Santa Monica are expecting paperwork, letters they can refute with more paperwork until the runways are chopped up.

Although I was feeling rather helpless writing this from 2,000 miles away, a scan of some of the SMO Council’s notes gave me an idea, one that anyone with an e-mail can take part in.

A Council advisory note says, “Any member of the public unable to attend a meeting, but wishing to comment on an item(s) listed on the agenda, may submit written comments prior to the meeting by mailing them to: Airport Commission 3223 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica California 90405 or via email at airport@smgov.net.”

Since the city government folks were kind enough to offer up an e-mail address, I think everyone should give the Santa Monica City Council a piece of their mind about the airport’s demise. We can’t leave all the heavy lifting to the Santa Monica Airport Association.

Of course I have no idea whether the airport’s strangulation is enough of an issue to make the agenda for the October 24 meeting. But I’m thinking … who the Hell cares … send them a letter anyway.

Thanks for reading,

Rob Mark, Publisher

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23 Responses to “Don’t Let Santa Monica Airport Become Another Meigs Field”

  1. Dont Let Santa Monica Airport Become Another Meigs Field Avjet News Blog Says:

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  2. Dont Let Santa Monica Airport Become Another Meigs Field Avjet News Blog Says:

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  3. Robert Mark Says:

    My thanks to one of our steely-eyed Jetwhine readers who pointed out my typo in the original story.

    I’d labeled the SMO City Council meeting incorrectly. I corrected it to read October.

    Rob Mark

  4. Glen Towler Says:

    I will send a email I think the airport should be saved. The local government should be a ashamed of themselves

  5. Todd Brown Says:

    Sadly, the era of “All or Nothing” is upon us, and the SMO saga is caught up in it. Most residents around SMO do not want the airport closed. They merely want the jet traffic to move to a more suitable location. Yes, the airport was there many years before most residents, but the jets, and their corresponding noise and exhaust, were not. If compromise was in the air, I could easily see a solution of allowing certain prop (single and two engine) planes access and a cap on jet activity. It was never designed for its current use.

  6. Joseph Finazzo Says:

    The faa needs to take the airport away from sm and turn it into federal hands if they don’t abide by the contract they signed

  7. Ric Lee Says:

    Read your article and fired off an email to the Santa Monica city council.

    Hope they are flooded with responses.

  8. Dave Hopkins Says:

    Dear Robert, many thanks for your Santa Monica airport and our Airport Association, (SMAA) it is much appreciated and applauded.

    Yes, Santa Monica is something of a test case for property developers and their client city councils nationwide. If they can force SMO to close, there are immediately 200+ airports nationwide that were given to city councils as surplus Federal property after WWII on the condition they be operated as public airports “forever”. For example, Torrance, (KTOA), Burbank (KBUR) just two examples in Southern California, that could close if the City of Santa Monica council is allowed to close SMO. If this is allowed to happen, a flood of US regional airport closures could follow, based on their value to property developers.

    Yes, I encourage all your readers to write to Santa Monica city council that SMO is a critical part of our US infrastructure and that closing SMO is against the public interest.

    Yes, our airport association (SMAA) fully supports FAA efforts to hold Santa Monica City council to their Federal Government obligations and a high level FAA presence at our next City Council meeting on October 25th, (note its the 25th, not 24th October). SMAA encourages and supports FAA positions at that meeting and anyone else who wishes to speak, e-mail or tweet in support of SMO for the October 25th City Council meeting.

    Many thanks again and I welcome any questions or comments.

    SMAA also welcomes members to join us and join the fight for SMO at our website at santamonicaairport.info . Donations of expertise or funding are also welcome. SMAA is non-profit organization, laser-focussed on protecting SMO and passing along to the next generation for the benefit of all.

    Dave Hopkins
    Vice President
    Santa Monica Airport Association
    30121, Airport Avenue, Suite 210
    Santa Monica
    California 90405

    daveh@santamonicaairport.info
    santamonicaairport.info
    Tel: (310) 990-2045

    SMO, critical infrastructure – Now and for the future

  9. Stuart C. Ashley Says:

    What most folks who want to shut an airport down really want:
    1. They want to exploit the land around the airport in a more profitable way.
    2. They are residents, who knew the airport was there, when they bought, but the “airport makes too much noise.’
    What folks who want to shut an airport down never think about before shutting down the airport:
    1. From where will they be med-evacced, should they need it?
    2. From where will the forest fighting aircraft takeoff?
    3. What impact will loosing the industries that depend on the airport do to the economy of the municipality?
    Think deeply about it!
    Cheers! Stu.

  10. Chris Thrasher Says:

    Great article! I have been sending in daily letters to the editors of the local
    Papers in an effort to make known the deplorable behavior of the SM City Council.
    I couldn’t agree more that the FAA needs to stand up and act decisively before it’s too late for KSMO. I have faith that they will but letters help.
    The SM City council will ignore all letters it receives in support of the airport. That is a given. They have ignored all up to this point.
    They have no interest in complying with the grant assurances, original agreements or the Federal and state laws governing the airport operations, leasing if airport space to aviation businesses or virtually any other facet of the situation. In short if it isn’t closure, the SM City Council isn’t interested.
    Control of this airport, unfortunately needs to be wrested away from the City and supervised by the FAA directly at this point.

  11. John Jerabek Says:

    Hi Robert,

    The Santa Monica Airport Commission is made up of non-aviators who have been appointed to close the airport and emailing them is less than useless. I have two suggestions for your readers. First, and close to useless, email the council directly at council@smgov.net. Second, and maybe the closest thing to useful, complain to the directly to the FAA via a Part 13 complaint, verbally or in writing.

    Here is the contact info for the Los Angeles ADO: https://www.faa.gov/airports/western_pacific/regional/los_angeles/

    Here is the info on Part 13
    http://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_compliance/complaints/media/CGL-2014-01-investigating-part13-complaints.pdf

    Further, advising your readers to contact their Congressional Representatives and in turn urging them to contact the DOT regarding this matter is also appropriate.

    Thank you for your excellent article.

    John Jerabek.

  12. Rol Murrow Says:

    Sending your letters can be a good idea but send them to the right places, and make sure the letters aren’t negative, mistargeted, or counterproductive.

    Sending to the airport commission members is useless. All of them are either anti airport neighbors or development advocates. They will trash your letters.

    The city council is pretty much the same.

    Instead write a GOOD letter to the editors of the local papers. And before you do it get hold of AOPA’s brochure “Writing a Letter to the Editor.” You can ask for it online or by calling AOPA. It tells you what works and what doesn’t when writing such letters.

    A badly written letter will give ammunition to the opponents and may stir up resentment or anger among citizens who may well be good allies.

    Get on the mailing list of the Santa Monica airport Association too, and ask them if you might have any doubts about your letters or where they should be sent. The website is http://www.santamonicaairport.info/

    Remember this fact: the most read section of newspapers is the Letters to the Editor section. We are trying to convince the citizens of our cause, so your help would be much appreciated!

  13. Larry S Says:

    Rob … surely you jest. While I absolutely agree that Administrator Huerta ought to personally appear at the Santa Monica Council meeting, he won’t. After watching him BS the crowd at Airventure over the third class medical relief NPRM … why should he care … it’s just one less airport. Less for him to worry about.

    Frankly, having lived in CA for 30 years, I don’t think the Left Coast Hollyweird libs care. Very few of ’em will be impacted. Those that do will find … vays.

    While you’re on the subject, where’s Harrison Ford? Doesn’t HE have airplanes there?

  14. George Says:

    Truly stunned as to how long this battle has gone on and why the FAA has not put a stop to it.

  15. Rmy Bouin Says:

    Santa Monica airport is one of the most iconic airport in the world.
    The Santa Monica city councillors don’t seem to realize that and the incredible value of their airport for the prosperity of their city.
    They want to spend millions in taxpayers monies to turn their airport into a park as was done for meigs airport.
    A smarter way to work for future generations would be to have both the airport and a public park. Providing for green areas to the non flying public on the airport would be a good way to make the airport a nice place for everybody.
    Also the apparent lack of support of the aviation community for SMO Is really a disgrace
    We always get what we deserve.
    Stand up for SMO even if as me you will probably never get to use it.
    General aviation will not survive with an ever decreasing number of ga airports in urban areas where the customers are.
    Therefore I also wish every ga pilot could take one minute to go to the SMO airport association facebook page and encourage them with a like.
    They have only a few which is a disgrace when you see all the likes on the facebook pages of the airport opponents.
    Please stand up and do your part to save Santa Monica airport
    Rmy BOUIN
    Active GA pilot in France
    Air traffic controller
    Former city councilor

  16. Robert Hastings Says:

    I’ve sent this email to the address you provided …

    What is wrong with you people? Do you just see $ signs instead of doing your elected jobs as servants of the people that elected you. Oh, I know you can mistakenly say, “You are doing what is best for everyone.” But is that really true. People that work at SMO and pay taxes are being ignored by you. Not only them directly, but all of those people that get the economic trickle down effect of their work.
    Get off your collective asses and do what’s right for the people you represent. “That does not include closing SMO.”

    Robert Hastings

  17. Jim Gates Says:

    Unfortunately, the City Council and their anti-airport appointees on the “Airport” Commission will simply ignore any letters or e-mails sent on behalf of SMO and its businesses. The developers have been pouring money into the council members’ pockets for a long time and are now demanding that their lackeys deliver the property to them.

  18. Martin Says:

    This is a good catch – and a great idea.

    I am not really a skilled legal writer, but still would like to contribute.

    Would it perhaps make sense, if Rob could hemmingway together a template of sorts, or a list of talking points to make sure to hit in that email to the city crooks?

    This would make it easy for more people to send an email, with more substance than just “please don’t do it”….

    -M.

  19. Robert Mark Says:

    This is really annoying. A reader e-mailed me mentioning that the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce doesn’t even support the airport. How can that be after all these years?

  20. Fred von Zabern (Long Beach, CA) Says:

    The community of Santa Monica should be careful what they wish for.

    Meadowlark airport (L16) in Huntington Beach faced the same fate in the 70’s and 80’s… The airport owner and a vocal minority really wanted the airport closed, but when neighbors considered the alternative…traffic, dense housing, crime, etc., the airport stayed open for years before ultimately closing. Talking to my friends who are neighbors to the former airport are now sorry it’s gone. The airport had a park atmosphere and quaint, friendly restaurant that attracted locals and transient pilots alike to a nostalgic, bygone era. Santa Monica needs to think their irreversible decision through carefully. Not only would they get denser housing, stripmalls and other associated plight, they would lose substantial FAA funding that contributes to the local economy. Aviation at SMO has its interests ranging from Flying Clubs sharing expenses in entry-level airplanes to biz jets, and other unaccountable benefits. With 600,000+ pilots and techs needed in coming decades, who’s can say SMO wouldn’t inspire a young, wayward SMO neighbor? SMO has lots of opportunities to provide such a career path. What a horrible thought to imagine SoCal without SMO.

    As a former Douglas (now Boeing) employee who for many years supported the DC-8, its tragic to think that self-serving politicians are caving to a vocal minority, and consciously choosing to eliminate the de facto Commercial Aviation Icon that is SMO. Believe it or not, Commercial Aviation is still a huge industry, even though nearly all has left SoCal. This airport had a big part making the Southland great and the city is potentially missing a great opportunity. With 600,000+ pilots and techs needed in coming decades, who can say SMO and its living history wouldn’t inspire a young, wayward SMO neighbor? SMO has lots of opportunities to provide such a career path. What a horrible thought to imagine SoCal without SMO.

  21. Bill Lehr Says:

    Just before Christmas of 2013, my brother was severely injured in a car accident in southern Idaho. He had to be cut out of the vehicle and was losing blood.

    Thankfully, there was a general aviation airport nearby that could be reached by a jet ambulance that delivered him to the best hospital in Boise.

    After over two weeks in ICU, he began the long process of recovery. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were together enjoying visiting our Mom back in our hometown.

    If that Idaho community had decided to close that airport, my only brother may have bled to death in the back of an ambulance driving to the hospital miles away. Knowing this, I cannot fathom why any community would want to close an airport that serves the local area in so many ways.

    – Bill Lehr

  22. Brian Smith Says:

    This week in August marks the anniversary of the First Women’s Air Derby in 1929, a transcontinental air race that originated at Clover Field — now Santa Monica Airport (“SMO”) — and concluded eight days later in Cleveland, Ohio. Here at Aerlex Law Group, our offices overlook SMO, and it seems like a fitting occasion to remember the remarkable women aviators who took flight in the competition that humorist Will Rogers dubbed “The Powder Puff Derby.”
    Some of the female aviators who competed in the first women’s transcontinental air derby which began in Santa Monica on August 18, 1929. Amelia Earhart is fourth from the right. Louise Thaden, who won the 2700-mile race, is fifth from the right. Photo courtesy of Saint Louis University Libraries.

    At the Cleveland Municipal Airport, a throng estimated at 18,000 people greeted the pilots as they finished the race. Louise Thaden came in first, and she was followed by fourteen others: Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Edith Foltz, Mary Hazlip, Jessie Keith-Miller, Opal Kunz, Blanche Noyes, Gladys O’Donnell, Phoebe Omlie, Neva Paris, Thea Rasche, Bobbi Trout (finished untimed because of two forced landings), Mary von Mach, and Vera Dawn Walker.

    http://www.santamonicaairport.info/smo-history

  23. Todd Says:

    While following this story I took a close look at SMO and Santa Monica on Google earth. What I didn’t realize is that SMO is right on the border of the City of Los Angeles. The city of Santa Monica has effectively voted to declare that the land known as SMO will be “vacant”.

    So perhaps the city of Los Angeles should use it’s eminent domain powers to take the land from it’s neighbor… and “build” a new airport. If they are clever, they could use federal funds for this exercise.

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