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Super Marine Sale Raises Concerns About Jet Traffic

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

March 19 -- After years of parking, stocking and fueling planes at Santa Monica airport, Super Marine is up for sale. Who is buying the small business, however, has led some neighbors to worry jet traffic could further soar.

Pending a review by the City Attorney's office, City officials confirmed last week that the independently owned tenant is in the process of being bought by Atlantic Aviation Corporation, an aircraft service company which operates in nearly 40 cities nationwide.

"It is a request to transfer a majority stock option," Airport Manager Bob Trimborn said of the deal. "The owner is a 73-year-old who is at a point that he wants to transfer his ownership in the company."

In addition to taking over operations for Super Marine -- one of three "fixed base operators" that services planes once they touch-down -- the company would inherit the independent company’s remaining seven-year lease at the airport, Trimborn said.

City officials said Atlantic Aviation must abide by the same lease conditions as Super Marine and that there is no direct evidence showing the sale could directly increase traffic.

Atlantic Aviation officials declined to comment on the specifics of the pending sale, but Sue Sommers, the company's vice president of sales and marketing, said jet traffic is dictated by market demands.

"As lovely as it may be for us, increasing traffic at the airport is beyond our capabilities," Sommers said.. "That is driven by the customers themselves.

"We work very closely with communities in a lot of other cities that have airports and adhere to all FAA guidelines including noise standards."

However, the sheer size of the company and its business model has members of Friends of Sunset Park, a neighborhood group abutting the airport, worried that Atlantic Aviation could add to the 20,000 jet take-offs each year.

"What we know about Atlantic Aviation is that they service business jets," said Cathy Larson, a member of the neighborhood group’s airport committee.

For years, FOSP and other neighborhood groups have complained of noise, lack of safety and pollution at the airport , which has seen a steady increase of jet traffic in a city that is home to major entertainment and internet companies.

Although the majority of Super Marine's business also focuses jets, Atlantic Aviation has the potential to accommodate more traffic, Larson and others believe.

"They're going to be able to spend more resources promoting more business," she said.

Demand and space constraints, and not simply the size of the operator, will determine use, Trimborn said.

"It's all still the same lease," said Trimborn. "It's really a demand-driven economy when it comes to this business."

Deputy City Attorney, Martin Tachiki – who is currently reviewing the pending sale for the City – said he too is unsure what Atlantic Aviation may have in mind for its future business plan.

"I don't want to speculate on what they want to do," he said. "Our primary concern is in compliance to their lease.

"The sale is pending, but under the lease it has to meet certain requirements," he said.

The City Manager must still approve the sale, Tachiki said.

It's still unknown if the matter will come before Airport Commission as a discussion item at the commission's next meeting on March 26th.

Coming at a time when the City, lawmakers and Federal Aviation Administration officials are meeting to discuss safety and legal issues surrounding the local airport, the next meeting is already expected to have a packed agenda.






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