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Sequester Could Close SMO Tower

The tower is one of 100 targeted for closure. "This is a very new item to us," Santa Monica Airport Director says.

Federal officials might turn off the lights at the Santa Monica Airport traffic control tower.

The tower, which handled an average of 370 operations a day last year, is one of 100 targeted for closure by the Federal Aviation Administration if the budget sequester kicks in Friday.

The city's Airport Director Bob Trimborn said he and the FAA have not fully evaluated what the impacts might be, but did say the closure would make the airport less efficient.

"Our airport is on a list of proposed closures, that doesn't mean it will be closed," he told Patch.

At the city's Airport Commission meeting Monday night, Trimborn said if the tower does shutter, pilots could instead communicate with the tower at the Los Angeles International Airport and at the Southern California Terminal Approach Control Facility in San Diego.

Trimborn also assured the commission, which is an advisory board to the City Council, there are protocols in place for airports operating without towers.

"Most airports, most general aviation airports, don't have control towers," he said. "They follow what they call non-tower airport procedures."

The control tower at Santa Monica is staffed by 17 FAA employees and is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The FAA initially identified 240 towers for closure, each of those had less than 150,000 flights a year or fewer than 10,000 annual passengers. About 134,000 prop planes and jets flew in and out of SMO last year.

In addition to those that it might close permanently, the FAA is also looking at eliminating overnight operations at more than 60 towers at airports across the country, including in Sacramento.

Though the massive federal budget cuts known as "the sequester" could start Friday, the FAA has said it would not begin shutting down towers until April.

"This is a very new item to us," Trimborn said on Monday night. "We've been discussing the ramifications on the airport with the FAA throughout the day."

Bruce Campbell February 27, 2013 at 06:32 PM
This airport is already unsafe (being so close to residences and due to toxic fuel used in some planes -- as well as some new pilots related to flight schools), and now the control tower may be closed?! We must act to shut down this airport before the 2015 date which some were previously eyeing!
an interested observer February 27, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Not a chance Bruce. The FAA tower will remain in place regardless, because of it's proximity to LAX. And the airport will be there for your children's children
stewart resmer February 27, 2013 at 11:08 PM
The airport is rated as one of the safest airports in the nation. 'If' the tower shuts down, it will continue to operate as it always has before when tower operations are handed over to the federal system. That will comport nicely when the FAA takes back the airport because the city has reneged on its agreement to operate the facility in to perpituity Now is the time for the city to live up to its responsibility under the terms of the agreement to pony up and pay for the manning of the tower during the manufactured economic crisis brought to you by the Party of Stupid.
Real Estate Devoloper Frank March 01, 2013 at 06:44 AM
Real Estate Developer Frank Have they not closed this airport yet? Please ramp up the closure efforts so that we can proceed with our plans. We are receiving messages daily from WMT and we'd appreciate the opportunity to get started ASAP! Are our current operatives in and around the City being effective or is it time for us to bring in more sophisticated "advocates" to finally get this thing closed? Please advise
Mike March 01, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Frank, I believe I can allay some of the fears to which you jest. So many people bring up the threat of development as a reason not to close the airport, and I share this same worry, so I sat down with a real estate development lawyer and learned some surprising facts. It seems that with this particular airport you can cite many aviation reasons to keep it open, but the threat of land development if it closes is not one of them. Here's why... The SMO runway lies in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles. If the airport were to close, any potential development would either straddle, or have a proximity to, both principalities such that said development would have to satisfy municipal requirements and obligations to both cities. Commercial developers won't touch that parcel as the legal posturing and red tape would swamp any plans before they ever got off the ground. Furthermore, the entire runway was designated state parkland long before the airport was built (it's actually how the airport originally wound up on that parcel). So before a developer could even jump into the legal quagmire above if they even wanted to, they would first have to petition the state to have the land rezoned for commercial use. In short, any interested developer would have to contend with the city of Santa Monica, the city of Los Angeles, and the state of California. For all intents and purposes, that land will either be an airport or a park, but never a Walmart.
stewart resmer March 01, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Frank, the airport remains frimly in the control of the FAA on into perpituity, if SM wants to lose all control over the airport that would be their choice of course, but outright closure and liquidation is just not real despite the grumblings from the minority politcal stalking horse Rubin brothers who earn a living selling bumper stickers and taking donations to prosecute their latest serindipity cause du jour. But hey it is a free country after all, send in your outside instigators if you must but be forewarned we dont cotton much to carpetbaggers much roun' he'yuh?
mike March 23, 2013 at 09:31 AM
No need for this airport. Only used by wealthy small plane enthusiasts at the expense of hundreds of thousands of citizens who suffer needless noise and pollution.. Recreational flying should be moved to sparsely populated areas.

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