Aerial view of Santa Monica Airport


Airport Parcels Map

Santa Monica Airport Update — May 2017

Cathy Larson, FOSP Airport Committee Chair

SMO to Stay Open 12 More Years

On Saturday, January 28, 2017, the City of Santa Monica announced its intention to enter into a Consent Decree with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The Decree was approved in closed session by a 4 to 3 vote (Gleam Davis, Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day, and Ted Winterer voted in favor; Sue Himmelrich, Kevin McKeown, and Tony Vazquez voted against). The decree was officially filed in federal court the following Tuesday.

In summary, the Consent Decree:

  • Delays potential closure of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) until January 2029.
  • Allows the City to shorten the runway from 5,000 ft to 3,500 ft (see more on that below) which will limit larger, faster aircraft.
  • Allows the City to install runway safety areas.
  • Settles all legal disputes between the Federal Government and the City.
  • Releases the City from all deed restrictions imposed by the Instrument of Transfer (a document transferring the use of SMO back to the City after World War II).
  • Requires City to offer 3-year aviation leases
  • Affirms the City’s plans to establish its own Fixed Based Operator (FBO) to provide aviation services and fuel but requires the sale of jet fuel and leaded fuel for piston-powered aircraft.
  • Does not prevent entities other than the FAA from bringing legal action against the City with regard to the airport — and they already have done so.

The announcement took both the community and aviation interests by surprise, and there were immediate cries of lack of transparency in the approval process.

City’s Plans to Shorten SMO’s Runway Move Forward

In keeping with the recently signed Consent Decree, the City signed a feasibility/design-build agreement with AECOM/Aeroplex in February to shorten the SMO runway from 5,000 to 3,500 feet. AECOM is a well-known aviation architectural and engineering firm. The City held a stakeholder meeting on April 25 at the Museum of Flying, and the Powerpoint presentation is posted at The meeting was attended by about 150 community members and aviation interests. Two runway reduction options were presented. Option A had a larger Runway Safety Area (RSA) on the western end. Option B had equal RSAs on both western and eastern ends. Public comment was taken. Community members overwhelming supported Option B but had concerns that both options only planned on “restriping” the runway reduction, but not actually removing the excess asphalt.

A similar presentation was made at a special Airport Commission Meeting on May 2. After public comment and discussion, the Airport Commission approved two recommendations to the City Council.

In Recommendation #1, Phase 1 implements Option B (centered runway) and prevents aircraft incursion into the decommissioned runway, and Phase 2 replaces the excess concrete/asphalt at the runway ends (which requires CEQA review).

Recommendation #2 urges the City Council to direct staff to initiate the CEQA environmental review process as soon as possible and that it be completed with requisite haste.

The City Council will meet on May 24 at 4:30 PM, take public testimony regarding the runway shortening project design options, and make a final decision. The award contract for the project is planned in August, with September-December set for implementation and final approval by the FAA for new flight operation procedures.

FOSP Endorses a Two-Phase Runway Reduction Project

The FOSP Board supports a two-phase plan, endorsing option B with a centered runway and equal runway safety areas (RSAs) on each end of the runway, with restriping to be implemented as soon as soon possible. While Phase 1 is being implemented, the City should move forward on the environmental review process for Phase 2, in order to permanently remove excess asphalt and replace it with natural environment compliant with any FAA height restrictions for Runway Protection Zones.

The FOSP Board also supports improving access to the expanded Airport Park by adding pedestrian walk-ways and bike lanes, and by making improvements to the Airport-Walgrove-23rd Street-Dewey intersection.

American Flyers, a national flight training chain, voluntarily decided to vacate its leased premises effective April 15, 2017. In addition to its flight school, American Flyers operated a self-service fuel station. The fuel facility (tanks, pipes, etc.) is owned by the City. Under terms of the Consent Decree, the City must either provide the fuel itself or permit a private vendor to do so on reasonable commercial terms. The City signed a licensing agreement with Aeroplex/Aerolease Group for the management and operation of the self-service fuel business as of April 16 at the former American Flyers’ premises. Meanwhile, Atlantic Aviation continues to sell Jet-A and 100LL aviation fuels. The Atlantic Aviation FBO is generally used by jet aircraft, which account for about 22 percent of SMO operations.

The departure of American Flyers has positive financial implications for the City and taxpayers. Under the terms of its 2006 lease, American Flyers was able to sub-lease City property, e.g., hangars, office space, and tie-down spaces. With its departure, all leasing revenue will be retained by the City. This is important because the Airport owes the City more than $10 million. As of April 16, the Airport retains those earnings, thus allowing it to repay the City’s general fund.

Justice Aviation, which advertised itself as “The Largest Flight School & Rental Aircraft fleet in Los Angeles,” closed in May 2016, after more than twenty years at SMO. As part of an agreement with the City to settle several legal disputes, Justice received $450,000 from the City as compensation. The settlement called for Justice Aviation to withdraw a federal lawsuit against the City challenging the attempted eviction from the airport property, to withdraw two Part 16 Complaints with the FAA against the City, and to end its participation in a class action lawsuit that challenged the City’s “excessive and unreasonable” landing fees.

Gunnell Aviation, one of the two largest Airport tenants, left SMO in February 2016. Gunnell had been leasing about 628,000 square feet of land, hangar, and office space at SMO since 1986 and had been profiting  millions of dollars each year.  While the company began its lease in 1986 as an FBO that provided aviation services, it later became Gunnell Properties, primarily in the business of leasing aviation property at SMO. It had been paying the City below market rents of only about $220,000 per year, and then subleasing their space to third party subtenants.

Operations at SMO (landings and takeoffs) increased from 83,324 in 2015 to 90,319 in 2016. Jet landings and takeoffs at SMO on one day alone (January 27, 2017) totaled 74.


Join the SM Airport Contact List

If you are interested in Santa Monica Airport issues, you can be added to our notification list by contacting Cathy Larson, Friends of Sunset Park Airport Committee Chair, at Please include your name, email address, street address, and phone number.

SM Airport Information 

Airport Administration

Stelios Makrides, Airport Manager
3223 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Hours: 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM on Monday-Thursday; 8 AM to 5:30 PM on alternate Fridays
Phone: 310-458-8591
Web site:

Flight Tracking and Noise Concerns
Noise Hotline: 310-458-8692
Email: – Include the complaint, date, time, and location.
Online SMO complaint form:
Helicopter Noise Complaint Hotline: or phone 424-348-4354
Even if you don’t feel that your complaint will make a difference, please be aware that the Airport staff logs all complaints. The records are useful to the City of Santa Monica as verification of Noise nuisance in communicating with other government agencies (i.e., the FAA) and in court if there is litigation.

Santa Monica Airport Noise Ordinance:  

On Oct. 23, 2001, the Santa Monica City Council approved the Revised Airport Noise Ordinance

1st Violation of 95decibal limit: Warning
  • 2nd Violation: $2000 fine
  • 3rd Violation: $5000 fine
  • 4th Violation: $10,000 fine
  • 5th Violation: 6 month suspension
  • 6th Violation: Ban

Departure Curfew Hours: 

(No departures allowed except for medical emergencies and police activities)
11 PM to 7 AM Monday through Friday

11 PM to 8 AM Saturday and Sunday

Santa Monica Airport Commission:

The Commission meets the 4th Monday of the month 10 times a year. (Usually December and either July or August are off). Agendas are posted on the airport web site the Thursday prior to the meeting date.