Santa Monica airport reopens with new ATC procedures

Operations resumed late last month on the shortened Runway 3/21 at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in California with new air traffic control procedures in place. The city announced the December 23 reopening of the 3,500-foot runway—reduced by 1,500 feet—proclaiming the project on time and on budget and stressing that the new length would reduce jet traffic and pollution in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

“This is a great day for the city of Santa Monica and our residents,” said Santa Monica mayor Ted Winterer. “We stayed the course and kept our eye on delivering a shortened runway just in time to usher in the New Year with reduced noise and pollution from large jets.”

The airport shuttered to aircraft operations for a 10-day period while the runway-shortening project was completed. During that period the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed one of the cases challenging a consent decree struck between the Federal Aviation Administration and the city that paved the way for the runway shortening in the near term and ultimate closure of the airport in 2028. The case involved plaintiffs Kate Scott and James Babinski, who had obtained a temporary restraining order on the shortening project only to have that lifted shortly after it was imposed. 

A separate lawsuit involving the National Business Aviation Assocation and a handful of airport businesses and supporters who also are challenging the consent decree is moving forward in the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.

During the closure, Suja Lowenthal, senior advisor to the city manager, sent a message to the community noting remarks from families about how they were “enjoying the quiet” from the closure.

The FAA, meanwhile, has issued a notice to airman noting that, until February 1, only the VOR-A and visual approaches will be available. All RNAV departures are available. In addition, the FAA noted new taxiway locations and hold areas and advised of run-up areas. With the new runway configuration, pilots will no longer be able to exit the runway at any point and must use the new taxiways. “Pilots are encouraged to ask SMO ATC for clarification or help at any time they are uncertain or think they need additional assistance,” said Santa Monica Tower air traffic manager Robert Russ.