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Airport Commission Gives New Operator Thumbs Up, Despite Fears Jet Traffic Will Rise

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

March 29 -- Despite worries that jet traffic would increase, the Santa Monica Airport Commission reluctantly gave the go ahead Monday to approve the sale of Supermarine, the long-standing independent business that services planes once they touch down.

In a 3 to 1 vote, with one abstention, commissioners recommended that the City Manager allow the transfer of stock from Supermarine -- which currently refuels, parks and provides transportation of pilots at two airports -- to Atlantic Aviation, which boasts services at 41 airports and has 13 contracts in the pipeline across the nation.

In addition to absorbing the small business, Atlantic Aviation will take over the remaining seven-year lease at the airport, abiding by the same terms and conditions as Supermarine, according to the City Attorney’s office.

While Atlantic Aviation officials acknowledged they would like to see business grow, they argued the company’s presence alone would not increase the 18,000 yearly jet operations that nearby residents complain are increasing noise and pollution.

"Obviously, if there was more traffic brought to us we would be happy to accommodate them, but we are not expecting to expand," Louis Pepper, CEO of Atlantic Aviation, told the commission.

"Atlantic, by itself, is not going to affect traffic," he said. "The amount of airplanes is user-based… they are only going to fly here if they have business here."

While a majority on the commission ultimately agreed to recommend the sale, several expressed doubt that increased advertising, financial resources and the growing use of shared jets and super-light jets would not promote more traffic.

Commissioners also said certain conditions must be met by Atlantic, including conforming to the City's sustainability plan on environmental operations, which Pepper said his company would examine.

Perhaps more importantly, will be a report on Atlantic Aviation’s efforts to improve community relations at Teterburo airport in New Jersey -- often compared to Santa Monica's non-commercial airport -- where the company has been a fixed base operator for more than a half century.

In Atlantic's March 19 introduction letter to the City, the company generally discussed studies currently being conducted by a committee headed by Atlantic to change operations at that airport to address neighborhood concerns about noise, hours of operation and the access of older, noisier jets.

"We recognize the need for the airport to alter operations and align itself with the community views," the letter said. "The committee… has proposed certain changes that include putting in place aircraft weight limits, flight curfews and curtailment of ‘Stage 2’ (older jet) aircraft operations."

Those discussions are still on-going, according to Atlantic Aviation.

Barring disapproval by Santa Monica 's City Manager or the City Attorney's office, the sale will likely be completed in the next two months.


"Obviously, if there was more traffic brought to us we would be happy to accommodate them, but we are not expecting to expand." Louis Pepper




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