The Santa Monica Airport belongs to the city, officials said in a lawsuit filed last week, challenging the FAA's claim that the field must be operated "in perpetuity." The city reportedly would like to close the busy airport, which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and the recent fatal crash there has intensified opponents' complaints about safety concerns. The suit says the 1948 agreement between the city and federal authorities was unconstitutional, and asks the court to name the city as owner of the airport's 227 acres. The airport is home to several flight schools and nearly 300 aircraft, and is a popular destination for business jets.
The FAA has said the city must operate the airport at least until 2023 because of assurances it gave in exchange for federal airport improvement grants. During World War II, the airport was taken over by the Defense Department, which invested in improving the runways and facilities. After the war, the field was returned to the city with the stipulation that it remain an airport. AOPA says the suit by the city "lacks any merit" and is simply a "desperate bid" by the city to close the field. AOPA added that it recently conducted a survey and found that 70 percent of Santa Monica residents support keeping the airport open.