The FAA Lost Me at “Innovative Solution”

By Robert Mark on February 7th, 2017

I was really starting to like the FAA the past few years, what with the Part 23 rewrite and passage if 3rd Class Medical reform. I saw them as more of a kinder, gentler agency … more let’s all work together for the greater good and that sort of thing … until a couple of weekends ago at least. That’s when the FAA performed one of those end runs around everyone, slipping a settlement on Santa Monica airport mess in under everyone’s radar on a Saturday morning.

The FAA’s deal with Santa Monica allows the city to chop up the airport’s single runway as soon as the ink’s dry on the necessary paperwork. That should shrink Runway 03/21 from 4,973 feet to something closer to 3,500, just short enough to make it useless for most jets and even some large chartered turboprops.

I suppose the agency was thinking the good news inside this “innovative solution” as the administrator called it, was that the airport will remain open for business until 2028, if the city hasn’t already driven everyone away by then of course.

But seriously … they see this deal as innovative?

Let me quote Administrator Michael Huerta. “Mutual cooperation between the FAA and the city enabled us to reach this innovative solution, which resolves longstanding legal and regulatory disputes. This is a fair resolution for all concerned because it strikes an appropriate balance between the public’s interest in making local decisions about land use practices and its interests in safe and efficient aviation services.”

A fair resolution? I’m struggling with this one. Sure municipalities ought to have a say in local airport operations, but what about this solution strikes anyone as innovative or fair?

The FAA and the City have been in this skirmish for decades of course and we all knew something had to give sooner or later.

But from this point on, the agency is going to have a tough time convincing anyone of their support for the industry if everyone knows they’re willing to pull another Meigs Field fiasco at the 11th hour. And let’s be serious, this really is a Meigs Field like move.

The City of Chicago closed Meigs Field to create a new park. – Photo courtesy Lee Hogan

The agency says this historic agreement removes the uncertainty of the airport closing at a moment’s notice like Meigs. The FAA says they’ll be on their toes to enforce the Santa Monica agreement. Yeah, right.

But if this agreement is so innovative, so grand, so historic, why sneak it in under the media radar on Saturday morning where PR writers only send the news releases they hope no one will really notice?

Some readers told me they think the settlement was nudged along by the new administration at the last minute, but I doubt it.

The FAA just doesn’t move that fast … unless it’s in their best interests I guess.

Hmmm … now where are those stupid thumbs down emojis you need them? Ah yes …

I’m Rob Mark in Chicago.



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2 Responses to “The FAA Lost Me at “Innovative Solution””

  1. Don Lively Says:

    So this is how this new administrator is going to do things? It is gonna be a bumpy ride.

  2. Robert Mark Says:

    Actually Don, it’s the same old administrator Michael Huerta … just seems as if he’s had a change of heart.

    But I do agree that the next couple of years is going to be a very bumpy ride.


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