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State Senate backs jet ban at Santa Monica

August 12, 2008|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

State legislators on Monday approved an advisory resolution encouraging the Federal Aviation Administration to honor Santa Monica's ban on the fastest jets that use the city's airport.

The resolution, which passed the Assembly in July and the Senate by a narrow margin Monday, also called on the FAA to review the safety of flight operations at the airport, which is within 300 feet of residential neighborhoods.

"The California Legislature has recognized the need to correct a dangerous situation at Santa Monica Municipal Airport," said Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who sponsored the measure. "This sends a strong message to the FAA."

The Senate voted 21 to 16 in favor of the resolution. The Assembly passed it 73 to 0. Lieu's resolution is not legally binding on the federal government, which has prevented Santa Monica so far from banning jets with approach speeds of 139 to 191 mph.

The restriction would affect such aircraft as the Gulfstream IV and Cessna Citation X, which account for about 9,000 takeoffs and landings a year at Santa Monica, or about 7% of all flight operations.

FAA officials say Santa Monica is obligated to let the jets use the airport under a variety of formal agreements with the federal government. They also contend that measures are available to improve the airport's safety.

"Santa Monica is legally bound to provide access," said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman. "It has no authority to ban aircraft that are able to use the airport. Federal law has supremacy here."

Lieu said he hoped the measure would result in political pressure that could reverse the FAA's position. He noted that copies of the resolution would be sent to the FAA, the federal secretary of transportation and all members of Congress from California.

The resolution "is consistent with City Council policy," said Kate Vernez, an assistant to the city manager. "It is important to get all our elected officials on the same page to secure the needed safety measures."

The City Council approved the ban late last year. Council members contend that the 4,973-foot runway is better suited to slower aircraft and lacks safety zones for faster jets -- posing a significant threat to homeowners and businesses near the ends of the airfield.

The city tried to implement the ban in April, but the FAA obtained federal court orders to halt the restrictions. The city has appealed those decisions.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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