Airport Narrative (Overview & History)
Said to be the oldest airport in the LA Basin, Santa Monica is two miles from the Pacific and six-miles north of LAX. The airport is 227 acres, surrounded by relatively dense residential neighborhoods. The history of dispute and litigation at SMO is extensive, among the leaders for all airports in the U.S. Impact issues have included noise, lead (from leaded AvGas combustion) and soot (from jetfuel combustion).
SMO was the base for the Douglas Aircraft Company, from the 1920’s until the 1970’s. At its peak, Douglas had nearly 44,000 employees working round-the-clock shifts, manufacturing the DC-3 and other classic early airline models. The departure of Douglas came about with the jet age; development of the DC-8 necessitated a longer runway at SMO, but the city refused, so production was transferred to the Long Beach airport, south of LAX. By 1977, the Douglas plant had been removed, leaving a large dirt lot.
In its peak years (around 1960), SMO was averaging nearly a thousand flight operations per day. Today, an FAA tower is open 14-hrs per day, averaging 261 daily operations, and serving 267 based aircraft. There is intense opposition to the few commercial/corporate/charter flights that insist on using SMO (commonly to fly just one or two people) instead of the many other, more suitable airports in the area.