Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) has asked that a runway safety provision for Santa Monica Airport be included in reauthorization legislation of the Federal Aviation Administration that was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Santa Monica Airport is a unique general aviation facility located in my congressional district. Each end of the bi-directional runway is abutted by steep hills, public streets, and densely populated neighborhoods, with homes as close as 250 feet,” Waxman told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee March 31. “The airport has no runway safety areas. If a plane overshot the runway or failed to lift off upon departure it could easily land in the neighborhood.
“The amendment I offer is simple and straightforward,” Waxman continued. “It urges the FAA to continue its discussion with the city of Santa Monica to identify a meaningful solution to address serious safety concerns at the Santa Monica Airport.”
Waxman’s proposal is the latest in his quest to have the FAA consider protection for the municipal airport’s runway.
Community advocates for neighboring Sunset Park have repeatedly asked the FAA to install a system that would protect the surrounding neighborhoods from an airplane overrun.
FAA officials counter that they have repeatedly offered to assist in financing the installation of an Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) on one or both runway ends. EMAS is a bed of porous concrete blocks that collapses under the weight of an aircraft’s nose gear and is designed to slow the aircraft, helping prevent runway overruns.
Waxman told the committee that he and Santa Monica city officials had been engaged in a protracted struggle with the FAA to bring safety protection to the airport runway.
“For nearly a decade, I have joined the community, the city of Santa Monica and the Airport Administration to push the FAA to address this serious safety gap,” he said. “While the FAA has had discussions with the city and presented a runway safety area proposal, its response has simply fallen short.
“The FAA has acknowledged that its proposal is both insufficient to stop larger jets from an overrun and inadequate to prevent overshoots involving smaller planes. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.”
One Santa Monica city leader applauded the congressman’s recommendation. “Rep. Waxman continues to support our efforts for immediate safety at the airport, and we greatly appreciate it,” said Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown.
But the leader of a local anti-pollution organization found fault with the amendment.
“With all due respect, Rep. Waxman’s amendment is weak. At best it will continue the useless polarized discussions between the immovable FAA and the city of Santa Monica,” said Martin Rubin, the director of Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution. “If Santa Monica yields on runway safety, how will that benefit the community?”
McKeown said the proposed amendment is a good start, but other measures should be taken as well.
“Eliminating the mismatch between a short runway and faster jets will only be the beginning, though,” the councilman said.
“We need to limit the air pollution from jets and leaded-fuel piston planes, and drastically reduce flight school activities and the takeoffs and landings over densely populated neighborhoods.”
McKeown said City Manager Rod Gould and City Attorney Marsha Moutrie traveled to Washington late last month to meet with the FAA about thefuture of Santa Monica Airport.
“I’ve been told their talks there were very productive,” he added.
An FAA official told The Argonaut that the agency does not comment on pending legislation.