Santa Monica Airport

"Clover Field" redirects here. For the film, see Cloverfield.
Santa Monica Airport
Santa Monica Municipal Airport
Clover Field

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

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: SMO, ICAO: KSMO, FAA 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]


Early history

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

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 craftsmen) suspended atop it.[5]

Post World War II

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:

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

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

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

The city has 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 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. In November 2014, voters passed the city-council-sponsored 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 "public parks, recreational facilities or open space."[15] However, it allows the city council to decide what constitutes such facilities and to replace existing structures without voter approval.

Cited reasons for public support of airport closure are an alleged threat to safety, despite no ground fatalities in the neighborhood around the airport in over a century,[16] 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 (none on the ground).[17]

The Western parcel of the land on which the airport sits was to revert to City control, on June 15, 2015, of this sub-parcel of the City-owned land, by expiry of prior City-FAA agreements.[18] One tactic recommended by airport opponents is to demolish the portion of the runway which sits upon this land, with the primary justification 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 FAA offered such an arrestor system to the city in 2008, but this offer was rebuffed.[19]


See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  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
  9. SMO Landing Fee Program
  10. Airport Park – Community & Cultural Services (CCS) – City of Santa Monica
  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. "Election 2014: Santa Monica Voters Pass Measure LC, Defeat Measure D". Santa Monica Mirror. November 5, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  16. "A Look Back On 45 Years Of Aviation Accidents/Incidents At Santa Monica Airport". Santa Monica Mirror. March 7, 2015. 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. "Talk of shortened Santa Monica Airport runway heats up". Santa Monica Daily Press. March 2, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  20. LAX94FA198
  21. LAX01FA129
  22. LAX02FA028
  23. 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.
  24. "N16JR flight track". FlightAware. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  25. "WPR09FA102". Retrieved February 4, 2009.
  26. Lozano, Alicia (January 28, 2009). "2 men killed in crash at Santa Monica Airport are identified". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  27. Bloomekatz, Ari (August 2, 2009). "Pilot injured in small plane crash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2009.
  29. "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. August 29, 2011.
  30. David Simpson (September 30, 2013). "No survivors after plane hits hangar at Santa Monica Airport". CNN. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  31. "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.
  33. "Harrison Ford crash: NTSB investigator says anytime a person survives an airplane crash is 'a good day'". Fox News. March 6, 2015.
  34. "Harrison Ford injured in plane crash". USA Today. March 5, 2015.
  36. "Harrison Ford recovering after crash landing plane on golf course". Los Angeles Times. March 6, 2015.
  37. "Harrison Ford Injured In Plane Crash On Golf Course". Huffington Post. March 5, 2015.
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