KSMO: City Moving Forward on Evictions of Main FBOs – Atlantic Aviation & American Flyers

“…This morning the City filed unlawful detainer actions against Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers. As you know, both companies were given 30 day notices to vacate on September 15; both failed to vacate by the required date of October 15. Please see the attached press release for more detailed information….”

– Nelson Hernandez, Senior Advisor to the City Manager

Click here for further info (archived copy of the City’s news release)

[KSMO] Update: City Issues 30-Day Notices for Both Airport FBO’s to Vacate

It has been many decades of hard work, and the end-result may soon be here: closure of this unneeded airport to eliminate health hazards, add parks, and better serve the local community.

Airport neighbors are severely impacted, mainly by charter jets and repetitious flight instruction in the airport traffic pattern. Noise of course, but also lead, carbon soot, and other hazardous pollutants. Neighbors and the City have been trying since at least the 1970s to regain control of their local airport. They have judiciously refused to accept any new grant offer for more than two decades, with the goal of timing out FAA’s right to manage and control from afar in Washington, DC, via ‘grant obligations’. That timed out last year… but then FAA arbitrarily reset the timeout date to 2023.

Following the decisive vote by city council on August 23rd, formal letters were sent to both airport FBOs, Atlantic Aviation and American Flyers. Below is a scrollable PDF copy of a news report by a pro-aviation online media outlet; predictably, it contains plenty of bias, and the reader comments illuminate that bias even further.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

The other notable recent news at KSMO was the filing AGAIN of yet another Part 16 complaint, this time by Atlantic Aviation. FAA’s true role, as evidenced by their history, is to cover for industry players; this includes their dog-and-pony-show complaint program called ‘Part 16’. This is strictly an administrative review process, and it is used to create an illusion of legitimacy for those complaints, which routinely are filed by legal teams representing one airport tenant or a small group of elite airport operators. The resultant FAA paperwork, and the expense in time and money FAA wastes handling these Part 16 complaints, is both phenomenal and absurd.

An ‘FBO‘ is a ‘fixed base operator’. At most small airports, there is typically one FBO and they thus hold a monopoly on the profits to be gained selling fuel, providing instruction, chartering planes and servicing aircraft. Consistent with politics today, it is not uncommon for an airport authority to be cronyistic and award the lucrative FBO rights to connected friends. For example, at Santa Monica, millions of dollars in lease revenues were effectively forfeited by the City and instead given as a massive subsidy to Atlantic, when the City authorized lucrative subleasing of hangars and non-aviation office space by Atlantic Aviation lease. The lease payments to the City pale in comparison to the sublease revenues paid to Atlantic. Here are images from Atlantic’s latest Part 16 complaint, offering those numbers:

ksmo-20160913scp-item3-from-atlantic-aviation-fbo-inc-v-city-of-santa-monica-part-16-complaintsublease-revenues-to-atlantic-aviation

Item#3 in the Atlantic Aviation Part 16 Complaint: Atlantic is receiving $222K monthly by subleasing; they pay under $17K monthly to the City.

ksmo-20160913scp-top-portion-of-item6-from-atlantic-aviation-fbo-inc-v-city-of-santa-monica-part-16-complaintmonthly-rent-paid-by-atlantic-aviation

Item#6 in the Atlantic Aviation Part 16 Complaint: Atlantic pays the City $17K monthly; the collect $222K monthly in sublease revenues. Note that fuel flowage fees are a pass-through… a common practice nationwide, where the FBO collects a few cents per gallon as a small tax, then forwards it to the airport authority.

With this transition, the City is intending to take on the expense (and reap the considerable revenues) from directly leasing properties they own, and from selling fuel at the airport. And, along with those benefits, City aims to slowly reassert the local control that never should have been taken away by FAA.


UPDATED 9/23/2016
See also:
  • 9/22/2016 – Letter to FAA, by a North Westdale resident. excerpt: “…only those wealthy enough to own and fly personal jet aircraft seem to be served by you and your office…” (1p)
  • 9/19/2016 – Motion Asking FAA to Issue Cease & Desist Order (6p)
  • 9/19/2016 – ‘City to Santa Monica FBOs: You Have 30 Days to Vacate’ .. (article by Matt Thurber, AINonline, 2p)
  • 9/15/2016 – Notice to Vacate, issued to American Flyers (2p)
  • 9/15/2016 – Notice to Vacate, issued to Atlantic Aviation (3p)
  • 9/15/2016 – ‘Santa Monica evicts private airport operators’.. (article by KPCC SoCal Public Radio; includes link to audio)

[KSMO] Update: Officials Vote to Close the Airport, So Some Pilots Want a Federal Takeover

Flying always has been an activity where you depend on yourself first, where you MUST perform responsibly as an individual decision-maker, or you can end up dead in a smoldering debris field. Intertwined with this is the fact pilots traditionally are strong advocates for individual rights and local authority. It’s a philosophy, a set of values, arguably the best part of conservatism.

So, who would have thought that pilots would be hoping Federal bureaucrats would take over airports like the one in Santa Monica? Yet, this is what some pilots are now hoping for. Here’s a PDF of a recent GA News article, with reader comments, about the latest events in Santa Monica:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

I grew up with aviation. My main role model as a kid was my father, a brilliant and gifted man with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. He grew up in the golden age of aviation – he was born not long after Lindbergh’s first flight across the Atlantic – and he shared his enthusiasm for engineering and aviation with all of us kids. For years, he worked for Boeing in Seattle; many summer weekends were spent at small airports, helping out and catching rides in my dad’s 2-seat glider. Eventually, though somewhat accidentally, I ended up spending the best years of my work life as an FAA air traffic controller. (of course, I was also a Whistleblower, and forced to retire early; story here)

That’s all background. The point to be made is this: I know from five+ decades of experience how conservative and individualistic aviators tend to be. These characteristics serve them well. And so, it is just crazy, that today we have pilots calling for the federal bureaucrats to take over the airport at Santa Monica. Just crazy.


See also:

Update: The Fight for Local Control (and eventual closure?) of the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]

The level of organization in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport in Santa Monica continues to be impressive. This is not surprising, though, as the fight for local control over their local airport has been going on for more than THREE DECADES! The latest progress includes a push for the City Council to “…close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted with a goal of June 30, 2018 and earlier if possible….” In support, a local Facebook group, SMOfuture, has created an 18-page factual summary of airport data that supports the closure proposal (a scrollable PDF copy is viewable at the bottom of this Post).

Take a look at the graphs in the report. There has been a lot of change in three decades. Some of the original impacts have all but disappeared. The main remaining airport impacts are the most severe, and are caused primarily by air charter jets and flight training pattern work. The flights that create the worst pollution – including added pollution at LAX due to delays – are the IFR departures. These are commonly charter jets and business jets, frequently carrying only one or two passengers. Each of these flights creates an enormous carbon impact per passenger mile, all for the ‘convenience’ of that small passenger load.

None of this is necessary, and KSMO offers no tangible benefits to the larger ‘National Airspace System’ (NAS). If an airport closure happened, flights using Santa Monica Airport would easily be absorbed at LAX, Burbank, Van Nuys and Hawthorne. The capacity at these other airports is far beyond the current usage. Indeed, as shown in the scrollable PDF below, everything has declined substantially at all Southern California airports, with the vast majority of airports seeing declines between 40% and 60%! The declining parameters include number of based aircraft, number of pilots, and number of operations per day. The only ‘growth’ at KSMO is in commercial flights, for air charter.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


That these health impacts and other problems persist is testimony to how entrenched FAA is, in a position that consistently protects elite airport interests, delaying any and all meaningful action. At this and other airports across then nation, locals are disgusted at this ongoing FAA failure. Adding insult to injury, the bulk of this poor performance by FAA is done using the Peoples’ money, primarily from airline passenger taxes.

See also:
  • SMO Future – a Facebook group, advocating to reduce airport pollution, noise, dangers, and costs, and seeking a better future use of the airport land.

Santa Monica Airport: One Step Closer to Local Control

KSMO.20160516.. Press Release re 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to remand (1p)It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. And, it is common (even more so, these days?) for the status quo to delay EVERYTHING for the simple reason that it perpetuates their advantaged position. So, in a situation such as the decades-old fight for local control of their airport, the people of Santa Monica just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Nearly three years ago, the City of Santa Monica filed a lawsuit seeking to establish the right to control the local airport. FAA (and the federal Department of Justice) fought back and successfully convinced a District Court Judge to kick the can down the road. Now, more than two years further along (and still no relief from jet fumes, leaded fuel, and noise), the City has prevailed in an appeal, and the Judge’s February 2014 decision has been ruled improper.

Yesterday, the people scored a small victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued their decision, remanding a case back to the District Court. Here is a link to an aiREFORM page with a transcript of the March 11th arguments, and below is a copy of the 7-page ‘Memorandum’ outlining the decision:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


See also:

Santa Monica: Special Meeting on 2/24

Image

KSMO.20160224.. Special Meeting Announcement, re N.Hernandez at St. Andrews ChurchNotice the northeast tip of the airport, in the bottom left corner of the satellite image. This neighborhood is perhaps the most pollution-impacted area near the Santa Monica Airport and continues to experience high levels of both lead and jet-engine soot. Concerns have been raised for decades (see four items linked below), and all FAA has done is delayed, delayed, delayed.


See also:
  • 12/18/2013 – Congressman Henry Waxman letter to SCAQMD, re ultrafine particle pollution (2-pages)
  • 12/13/2013 – ‘Big disparities in air pollution detected in L.A. neighborhoods’, LA Times article by Tony Barboza (2-pages)
  • 11/30/2011 – Transcript of hearing held by Senator Ted Lieu, ‘Air Pollution Basics and Santa Monica Airport’ (60-pages)
  • 11/19/2009 – ‘Santa Monica Airport a major pollution source’, LA Times article by Dan Weikel (1-page)
  • [KSMO]

[QUOTE]: City Cites NBAA’s ‘Corporate Greed’ Behind Delayed Progress at Santa Monica Airport

QUOTE

“…the Airport belongs to the people of Santa Monica not to corporate interests. Our interest is the public interest. Our interest is to promote the well-being of tens of thousands of residents and control land purchased by the taxpayers of Santa Monica. What NBAA wants is to use our property, public property, for a select group of people that can afford private jets solely for their convenience. Although their arguments are wrapped in beautiful legal prose, when you peel away the curtain what you find is corporate interest who ordinarily believe in property rights except when it is an inconvenience for them….”

– Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager

Mr. Hernandez makes a very good point: the position being advocated by conservative aviation interests, who are consistently opposed to distant federal control and overreach, is a position that sustains and entrenches FAA’s bureaucratic interference so as to obstruct local authority. How ironic (and hypocritical) is that?

Click here to read the original article at Santa Monica Daily Press.

Click here to see a new aiREFORM.com webpage with recent KSMO documents, including articles, legal filings, and some background material.

AIRR Act is Shuster Serving the Airline Corporatocracy

This past week, in a very-coordinated effort including lobbyists, airlines, past FAA officials and the always-loyal aviation media outlets, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster released his proposed legislation, the AIRR Act.  The most significant element of the Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act is that it proposes to remove ATC from the FAA and place it into a corporate body with a governing panel consisting primarily of industry players.

20160202scp.. FAA Over-Delivering on Destroying Communities (A.Lilling tweet)

…a recent tweet about FAA failure…

Does FAA need reform? Absolutely. So, too, Congress needs reform. And both FAA and Congress need reform for the same reason: they are both failing to serve.

Our Founding Fathers designed a system that was to protect the delicate balance between government powers and the rights of individual citizens. This system means that, where a federal agency (such as FAA) is imposing burdens on communities (such as Charlotte, Boston, Flushing, Phoenix and many other ‘NextGen-victims’), the Congress will act to remedy the problem. But, due in no small part to both extreme gerrymandering and plutocratic allegiance, we have not had a functioning Congress for well over a decade. Instead, for the most part, we have had a fraternity of rich lawyers all hyper-focused on manipulating district boundaries and collecting contributions to fund their reelections.

When you think about the long list of FAA failures in recent years, and the consistent inability of most elected officials to take decisive actions, it starts to appear as if our elected leaders actually wanted to perpetuate the failures, to create a population so desperate for impact relief, they would be easily manipulated to call their representatives and tell them to vote in favor. Thus, stacking up these problems might actually up the odds of passing the eventual proposal.

So many failures went unresolved, and virtually everywhere:

  •  the lack of control by local authorities to manage problems at their local airport.
  • the horrific impacts related to NextGen implementations, creating new noise-ghettos.
  • the many lies and misrepresentations – the outright fraud packaged under the name ‘NextGen’.
  • the continued spewing of toxic lead by small planes DECADES beyond health-mandated deadlines

We have seen a few rare exceptions (they are almost always freshman representatives who perhaps have not yet lost their idealism and loyalty to true service?), but, for the most part, Congress continues to do nothing. Then, suddenly, we as citizens watch as Mr. Shuster springs to life and offers the AIRR Act. Of course, at the same time, via a media blitz, we are also being told by Mr. Shuster, by the airlines, by lobbyist ‘Airlines for America’, and by a gaggle of former FAA officials (including David Grizzle and Russ Chew) that this is a great idea. Even the controller’s union, NATCA, announced support … though all the other unions came out in strong opposition, which raises the question: what bone has been promised to NATCA for the inexplicable support?

There are many things WRONG about the AIRR Act. The main objective is clearly to insulate ATC from both Congressional oversight and public accountability/transparency, neither of which is a worthy or acceptable goal. But, for now, consider just the simple truth, that failure should never be rewarded. Passing this legislation would reward players in both the Congress and at FAA. Congress should not be in the business of giving away authority in exchange for contributions from profitable airline during a campaign year. FAA should not be functioning as a captured regulator, serving only the industry while creating more and worsening problems for the People. Both are failing, so why would any intelligent person want to reward that failure?

How about this instead: if FAA et al really want to outsource ATC, grant their proposal only after both FAA and Congress have cleaned up their acts and are performing their duties. We all deserve and demand an ACCOUNTABLE Federal Aviation Administration.

Hillsboro, Toxic Lead Pollution, and the Next HARE Meeting

During much of the first month of this new year, we have heard news about lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply. Most recently, we all learned how government workers were provided bottled water to not have to rely on the water soon to be announced as toxic. All of this to save a few bucks, with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Flint.

At the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO] in Oregon, lead has been an ongoing issue. In fact, the Hillsboro Airport officially emits 1,400 pounds of lead into the air, at an airport with numerous nearby residential neighborhoods and even schools. The vast majority of these lead emissions are created by the one airport business that imports students from across the world, and makes a large profit teaching them to fly at KHIO, with tens of thousands of flights circling low over Hillsboro neighborhoods. And, just like happened in Flint, the Port of Portland and the FAA are resisting and delaying changes needed to reduce this dangerous pollutant, all with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Hillsboro.

The February 3rd HARE Meeting

When they have an impact problem such as aviation noise or lead pollution, a common strategy for airport authorities is to create a citizen group.

20130821.. 'Great Quote by Upton SInclair' (screencap of aiREFORM Post)

(click on image to learn more about Upton Sinclair and FAA’s inability to ‘understand’ a controller error at Camarillo)

Such groups typically consist almost entirely of pro-business interests, as well as many who are actual pilots or otherwise economically connected to the airport. And, as noted 80-years ago by Upton Sinclair, such groups have an astonishing inability to fix problems, surpassed by an astonishing ability to serve the status quo.

The airport authority at Hillsboro is the Port of Portland. Years ago they created the ‘Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable’, HAIR. For whatever reason (maybe the fact that their group was dominated by old white guys, who tend to have evident follicle-impairment issues?), the name was ‘upgraded’ to HARE, standing for ‘Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange’. At any rate, the group of 22 people meets quarterly, to create subcommittees, to field subcommittee update reports, to hear Public Comments, and generally to project at least an appearance of ‘citizen involvement’ in the management of the activities and impacts of their local airport. Oh, and for the record, the evidence resoundingly suggests: whenever FAA and airport authorities convene a citizen committee, the group is routinely and profoundly biased against the citizenry and for the industry.

Here is a link to the Port’s HARE webpage (including a list of the members), and below is a scrollable PDF copy of the agenda for the coming meeting.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Success in Santa Monica: Prop 65 Signs Posted for Toxic Airport Lead

The situation has persisted for decades: FAA and airport management have stalled and obstructed citizen efforts to remedy the many adverse impacts caused by users of the airport in Santa Monica [KSMO]. Not just the noise impacts, but also health concerns, including toxic lead (still added to AvGas!) and soot and other hazardous air pollutants.KSMO.20160122.. Martin Rubin pointing at Prop 65 sign at observation area

And so it is a great accomplishment to see that somebody within the city’s government has finally posted Prop 65 warnings at the public observation deck.

Thank You! And, kudos to CRAAP and others who have persisted in pressing the airport management for transparent disclosure of these SMO airport health risks. [click here for a PDF copy of the CRAAP news article]

KSMO.20160122.. Prop 65 sign at observation area

We all hope FAA will halt their obstructionism and allow city officials to resume the appropriate level of ‘local control’ needed to make SMO an airport that adds to quality of life in the community. Maybe the entire airport will be shut down, or maybe the runway will be shortened and jets disallowed. But, whatever happens, we need to get away from the current imbalance that benefits so few at the expense of so many.