Santa Monica Airport

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"Clover Field" redirects here. For the film, see Cloverfield.
Santa Monica Airport
Santa Monica Municipal Airport
Clover Field
Santa Monica Airport - California.jpg
2006 USGS airphoto
Airport type Public
Owner City of Santa Monica
Location Santa Monica and Mar Vista, Los Angeles, California
Elevation AMSL 177 ft / 53.9 m
Coordinates 34°00′57″N 118°27′05″W / 34.01583°N 118.45139°W / 34.01583; -118.45139
Website Official website
KSMO is located in California
Location of Santa Monica Airport
Direction Length Surface
ft m
3/21 4,973 1,516 Asphalt
Number Length Surface
ft m
H1 40 12 Asphalt

Santa Monica Airport (IATA: SMOICAO: KSMOFAA LID: SMO) (Santa Monica Municipal Airport) is a general aviation airport largely in Santa Monica, California. The airport is about 2 miles (3 km) from the Pacific Ocean (Santa Monica Bay) and 6 miles (10 km) north of LAX. The FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2009–2013 categorized it as a reliever airport.[1]


Originally Clover Field, after World War I aviator 2nd lieutenant Greayer "Grubby" Clover, the airport was the home of the Douglas Aircraft company.[2][3][4] The first circumnavigation of the world by air, accomplished by the U.S. Army in a special custom built aircraft named the Douglas World Cruiser, took off from Clover Field on St. Patrick's day, March 17, 1924, and returned there after some 28,000 miles (45,000 km). Cloverfield Boulevard—which confuses the field's naming for a crop of green rather than a fallen soldier—is a remnant of the airport's original name.

World War II[edit]

Clover Field was once the site of the Army's 40th Division Aviation, 115th Observation Squadron and became a Distribution Center after World War II. Douglas Aircraft Company was headquartered adjacent to Clover Field. Among other important aircraft built there, Douglas manufactured the entire Douglas Commercial "DC" series of reciprocating-engine-powered airliners, DC-1 (a prototype), DC-2, DC-3, DC-4, DC-5 (only 12 built), DC-6, and DC-7. During World War II, Bolo B-18 and B-18A bombers and thousands of C-47 (military version of the DC-3) and C-54 (later the civilian DC-4) military transports were built at Santa Monica, during which time the airport area was cleverly disguised from the air with the construction of a false "town" (built with the help of Hollywood craftsman) suspended atop it.[5]

Post World War II[edit]

In 1958, Donald Douglas asked the city to lengthen the airport's runway so that Douglas Aircraft could produce and test the DC-8 there. The city, bowing to objections of residents, refused to do so, and Douglas closed a plant that had employed 44,000 workers in World War II, moving airliner production to Long Beach Airport.[6]


Facing east toward Century City and landing aircraft
FAA airport diagram

The airport has a control tower and, on average, handled 296 operations a day (for the 12 months – ended July 2011, as per the FAA's Air Traffic Activity System website). More recently, traffic has been decreasing to 83,381 annual operations in 2014, as per the Faa's Air Traffic Activity System website).\[7]

As the Santa Monica Airport is one of many general aviation airports in the nation that is surrounded on some sides by residential development, the City of Santa Monica aggressively enforces one of the most stringent noise ordinances in the nation. In addition to responding to the community’s noise concerns and enforcing the City’s Aircraft Noise Ordinance, which includes a maximum allowable noise level, curfew hours and certain operational limitations, Airport staff is involved in a variety of supplementary activities intended to reduce the overall impact of aircraft operations on the residential areas surrounding the Airport. The following procedures and limitations are enforced in accordance with the City’s Aircraft Noise Ordinance. Violations may result in the imposition of fines and/or exclusion from Santa Monica Airport:

  • Maximum Noise Level – A maximum noise level of 95.0 dBA Single Event Noise Exposure Level, measured at noise monitor sites 1,500 feet from each end of the runway, is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are no additional noise monitoring stations along the flight pattern, which is routed entirely over residential neighborhoods.
  • Night Departure Curfew – No takeoffs or engine starts are permitted between 11 pm and 7 am Monday through Friday, or until 8 am on weekends. Exceptions are allowed for bona fide medical or public safety emergencies only.
  • Operational Limitations – Touch-and-go, stop-and-go, and low approaches are prohibited on weekends, holidays, and weekdays from one-half hour after sunset until 7 am the following day.

In addition, there are numerous recommended noise abatement procedures and limitations that have been incorporated into the Airport’s Fly Neighborly Program and included in the program’s outreach materials.

The aviation aspects of aircraft operations at the Santa Monica Airport and use of the nation’s airspace is regulated by the federal government through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The City is jurisdictionally preempted by federal law from establishing or enforcing new local laws that would affect aircraft operations or the use of airspace around the Santa Monica Airport.

Typhoon is the only restaurant on the airport property with a runway view and Spitfire Grill is across on Airport Avenue. The former restaurant The Hump was closed in 2010 after its chef and owner were arrested for serving whale meat.[8] The Museum of Flying at the airport houses a collection of historic aircraft. A new facility was built on the South side of the airport and is now open. One of the airport's oldest buildings, next to the restored Douglas DC-3, hosts the U.S. Civil Air Patrol's Clover Field Composite Squadron 51.

Landing fees[edit]

On August 1, 2005, the Santa Monica City Council implemented a revised landing fee program (Resolution No. 9855) for all transient aircraft (those not based at the Santa Monica Airport) based on a uniform rate of $2.07 per 1000 pounds of Maximum Certificated Gross Landing Weight. Since the Santa Monica Airport receives no federal, state or local funding to operate, the landing fees fill the gap between other Airport revenue and the cost of operations.[9]

On April 13, 2013 the rates were approved for increase to $5.48 per 1,000 pounds of Maximum Certificated Gross Landing Weight.

Airport Park[edit]

Airport Park opened as an 8.3-acre (3.4 ha) public park on non-aviation lands at the southeast corner of the Airport. The park [10] features a synthetic turf soccer field, open green space and an off-leash dog area.


Approaching Santa Monica Airport from the east

In 2015, or 2023 the City of Santa Monica's settlement agreement with the FAA concerning the airport expires. The city has since invited the public to offer input regarding the airport's future.[11] The City of Santa Monica sued the federal government seeking to void a 1948 agreement in which the City agreed to keep the land for aviation use in perpetuity in exchange for title to the property.[12] On February 13, 2014, Judge John F. Walter dismissed the lawsuit ruling that the City's "quiet title action" was barred by the statute of limitations and that the other issues would not be ripe for a judicial decision until the City decides definitively whether it will close the airport.[13]

The City appealed on October 14, 2014, citing the expiration of the 1984 Agreement, after which FAA had agreed to release control of the City-owned parcel. The appeal also noted that the FAA's leasehold, granted during World War II, was for that purpose alone, and could not be transformed into a larger interest (such as a permanent taking of City land by FAA demanding use of the land for air-travel purposes in perpetuity).[14] There has yet been no finally conclusive legal decision, nor any preclusive agreement reached between the City and the aviation interests/FAA. An array of issues exists, which are still hotly debated in local, state, and national political arenas – as well as the Courts. The ultimate fate of the property is complete control of the property by the City of Santa Monica, although the date(s) of transfer of control of various portions of the airport are contentious issues.[15]

The consensus opinion is that the many issues will ultimately be decided in the Courts, with the dates of transfer-of-control being the central issues. The ultimate fate of the land was decided in a vote by the City's residents in November 2014. The voters passed Measure LC, with a 60% "yes" vote. Measure LC places limitations on land use once the airport is closed. It proscribes commercial development, limiting development of the land to uses for the public good – specifically "public parks, recreational facilities or open space."[16] Cited reasons for public support of airport closure are the airport's significant history of plane crashes,[17] including a November 26, 1993 crash by a student pilot into an apartment building directly adjacent to a gasoline filling station, in a densely populated area of the City, and resulting in three fatalities.[18]

The Western parcel of the land on which the airport sits was to revert back to City control, on June 15, 2015, of this sub-parcel of the City-owned land, by expiry of prior City-FAA agreements.[19] The desired action most widely expressed by the citizenry is to immediately demolish the portion of the runway which sits upon this land, with the primary reason being safety. That is, at a minimum, the allowance of a buffer between the end of the runway and residential houses – currently 300 feet away – more preferably with the installation of aircraft-arrestors to prevent any runway overshoot from rolling past the runway and into the residential homes. The topic is still under debate.

Most recently, Gunnel Jet Aviation, the second-largest jet-aircraft operator based at SMO, will vacate the premises on February 29, 2015.[20] Along with Gunnel, which had long benefited from a sub-market-rate rent (under FAA restrictions), the several companies to which Gunnel currently sub-lets (at market rates) will consequently have to seek other leasing arrangements.


  • On Labor Day weekend in 1989, a P-51 Mustang crashed into a home on Wade Street near Brooklake Street in Mar Vista. The pilot and passenger were both injured.[21]
  • In 1994, the pilot of a single-engine Piper Saratoga died when a fuel system misconfiguration led to an in-flight engine shutdown. The aircraft stalled in a subsequent 180 degree turn for a forced emergency landing and struck the ground, which resulted in a post-crash fire.[22]
  • On March 28, 2001, an inexperienced pilot rented a Cessna 172 at the airport and subsequently lost control of the aircraft over the Pacific Ocean upon encountering dark, instrument meteorological conditions. Three were killed.[23]
  • On November 13, 2001, the pilot of a twin-engine Cessna failed to remove the gust locks prior to startup and two were killed when the aircraft overran the runway after an unsuccessful aborted takeoff.[24]
  • On March 13, 2006, game-show host Peter Tomarken and his wife Kathleen died when his Beechcraft Bonanza crashed during climb-out from the airport. The aircraft had engine trouble and attempted to turn back before crashing into Santa Monica Bay.[25][26]
  • On January 13, 2008, a home-built aircraft ran off the end of runway 21 after a brake failure, jumped over the hillside, landing on a service road. The three passengers on board were not hurt, although the kit-built aircraft was damaged severely. The runway was closed for 20 minutes.
  • On January 28, 2009, a single-engine SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 lost power following takeoff and attempted to return to the airport. The aircraft struck the ground on the north side of runway 21 and caught fire, killing pilot Paulo Emanuele, of, and passenger Martin Schaedel, an Internet entrepreneur. Investigators determined a probable cause was the pilot’s failure to select the proper fuel tank for takeoff, which resulted in a loss of engine power.[27][28]
  • On August 2, 2009, a Rutan Long-EZ experienced engine failure after takeoff. The pilot attempted to turn back to the runway, but crashed on the taxiway in the process of landing. The pilot, flying alone, was severely injured and the airplane was destroyed.[29]
  • On July 1, 2010, a Cessna 152, crashed into the Penmar Golf Course shortly after take-off. The pilot was killed.[30]
  • On August 29, 2011, a student pilot operating a small plane crashed into a home at 21st Street and Navy Street after take-off.[31]
  • On September 29, 2013, a twin-engine Cessna Citation business jet that had just landed veered off the runway and crashed into a hangar, causing the hangar to collapse and setting fire to several other hangars.[32] The pilot and his adult son were both killed.[33]
  • On March 5, 2015, actor Harrison Ford's 1942 (the same year Ford was born) Ryan PT-22 Recruit began having engine trouble at 2:25 pm right after take-off from Santa Monica Airport and attempted a 180 degree turn to return to field. The aircraft did not have sufficient airspeed and altitude to complete the emergency maneuver and was forced to make an emergency landing on the Penmar Golf Course a few hundred meters from the runway. Ford was attended at the crash scene by a spine surgeon who was practicing at the golf course and assisted extracting Ford from the aircraft in case it caught fire.[34][35][36][37][38][39]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS): 2009–2013. Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  2. ^ Richard E. Osbourne. "Clover Field". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Cecilia Rasmussen (29 May 2005). "Windows Shed Light on High School's Sacrifice". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 August 2012. Along with his name inscribed in the window, Lt. Greayer "Grubby" Clover, a World War I pilot, is also the namesake of Santa Monica Airport's Clover Field. 
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 15, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906- 0-4.
  5. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13-24, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906- 0-4.
  6. ^ Garvey, William, Battled field, Aviation Week and Space Technology, February 24, 2014, p.18
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ SMO Landing Fee Program
  10. ^ Airport Park – Community & Cultural Services (CCS) – City of Santa Monica
  11. ^
  12. ^ Dan Weikel (January 10, 2014). "Federal government seeks to dismiss Santa Monica Airport lawsuit". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ "Judge Dismisses the City of Santa Monica’s Action Regarding the Santa Monica Municipal Airport". Aviation and Airport Development News. February 13, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Santa Monica Airport (SMO) History". Santa Monica Municipal Airport. October 14, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Santa Monica Airport (SMO) History". Santa Monica Municipal Airport. October 14, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Election 2014: Santa Monica Voters Pass Measure LC, Defeat Measure D". Santa Monica Mirror. November 5, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  17. ^ "A Look Back On 45 Years Of Aviation Accidents/Incidents At Santa Monica Airport". Santa Monica Mirror. March 7, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  18. ^ "A Look Back On 45 Years Of Aviation Accidents/Incidents At Santa Monica Airport". Santa Monica Mirror. March 7, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Talk of shortened Santa Monica Airport runway heats up". Santa Monica Daily Press. March 2, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  20. ^ Template:Cite title=To be reported by Local and LA Press outlets on December 11, 2015
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ LAX94FA198
  23. ^ LAX01FA129
  24. ^ LAX02FA028
  25. ^ Blankstein, Andrew (March 14, 2006). "TV Game Show Host, Wife Killed; Peter Tomarken of `Press Your Luck' was piloting a small plane that crashed into Santa Monica Bay.". LA Times Archives. Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  26. ^ "N16JR flight track". FlightAware. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  27. ^ "WPR09FA102". Retrieved February 4, 2009. 
  28. ^ Lozano, Alicia (January 28, 2009). "2 men killed in crash at Santa Monica Airport are identified". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  29. ^ Bloomekatz, Ari (August 2, 2009). "Pilot injured in small plane crash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2009. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. August 29, 2011. 
  32. ^ David Simpson (September 30, 2013). "No survivors after plane hits hangar at Santa Monica Airport". CNN. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Morley Builders Names Veteran Charles Muttillo as President To Succeed Mark Benjamin". Engineering News-Record (McGraw Hill Financial). 2013-10-01. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Harrison Ford crash: NTSB investigator says anytime a person survives an airplane crash is 'a good day'". Fox News. March 6, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Harrison Ford injured in plane crash". USA Today. March 5, 2015. 
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Harrison Ford recovering after crash landing plane on golf course". Los Angeles Times. March 6, 2015. 
  39. ^ "Harrison Ford Injured In Plane Crash On Golf Course". Huffington Post. March 5, 2015. 

External links[edit]