SMO runway through windshield
A temporary restraining order put the brakes on the runway-shortening process planned for Santa Monica Airport.

Federal Judge Grants TRO To Halt SMO Runway Shortening

A U.S. District Court issued a temporary restraining order on October 8 to halt the city of Santa Monica, California, from shortening the runway at Santa Monica Airport from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet.

The city had planned to begin work on the runway shortening project on October 9, marking another step in its effort to close the airport by the end of 2028 under a settlement agreement struck by the FAA earlier this year.

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The shortening project will curtail business jet traffic by “an estimated 44 percent and reduce large jet noise and air pollution," the city claimed.

But the city faced legal objections from pilots and other interests in the airport community, as well as from national organizations such as the National Business Aviation Association.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the petition in one such case, from airport neighbor Kate Scott and James Babinski, a pilot who frequented the airport. Scott and Babinski had argued that the city failed to comply with environmental review and public hearing requirements before moving forward with the terms of the settlement agreement.

The court determined that Scott and Babinski would “likely prevail at trial on the merits of their claim.” The court also agreed that the plaintiffs met the test for “irreparable harm” necessitating a temporary restraining order based on concerns that the runway shortening would require aircraft to fly lower over neighborhoods, increasing noise. Also, the court noted the concern that flight at the lower altitude over densely populated areas “increases the risk to pilots.”

The court gave the city until October 13 to submit a filing that would show cause why a restraining order should not remain in place.