SANTA MONICA—On Saturday, April 15, the fixed base operator (FBO) American Flyers will cease operations and depart the Santa Monica Airport (SMO), after more than a decade of service.
Aeroplex Group Partners, the consulting division of the aviation property management company Aeroplex/Aerolease Group, will take over the operations of the airport’s self-service fueling, according to a statement from the city of Santa Monica. Aeroplex also manages leaseholds at the Long Beach and Van Nuys airports and is involved in aviation facility design and construction. According to city officials, nonstop service will be provided for pilots.
“We recognize the urgent need to transition fuel operations seamlessly, so there is minimal interruption in service to the general aviation community,” said Aeroplex Group president and CEO Curt Castagna in a statement.
The company will also conduct an evaluation of the system to ensure safety and efficiency for aircraft owners and operators.
“There will be a smooth transition,” said Nelson Hernandez, Senior Advisor to the City Manager on Airport Affairs to Canyon News. “The user won’t notice a difference in service between Saturday and Sunday, when Aeroplex takes over the operations.”
In September 2016, American Flyers and another SMO tenant, Atlantic Aviation, were issued 30-day eviction notices, after city officials voted to take over their fuel sale business and aircraft-support services. Both operators fought back and won temporary reprieve against the evictions, with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In March, American Flyers made the abrupt decision to shut down and vacate the airport by April 15, despite the city of Santa Monica’s offer of a three-year lease. According to reports, the decision was influenced by the sudden agreement between the city and the FAA to shorten the airport runway by 1,500 feet and to close SMO down by December 31, 2028, under the Consent Decree. American Flyers, which operates a flight training school, will relocate to a base in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We were surprised by American Flyers’ notice to vacate SMO, but Aeroplex will step in and provide similar service,” said Mayor Ted Winterer in a statement. “Consistent with the recent Consent Decree, we remain committed to operating the airport in a safe manner that protects the health and welfare of Santa Monica and greater Los Angeles residents over the next eleven years.”
“The City has the right to take over fueling operations after the runway has been shortened, which they are planning to do by the end of this year,” said Hernandez to Canyon News. “At that time, the City Council will be presented with the choice of whether or not to take over. In the meantime, Aeroplex will be responsible for the job.”
The battle over the Santa Monica Airport spanned decades before the Consent Decree was issued. Residents complained about the noises, pollution, and health problems generated by jet operations, while supporters maintained that SMO is necessary for emergencies and to relieve air traffic. City officials hope to turn the airport into an urban park, with trails for hiking and cycling.