Santa Monica Airport in its final destination?

Santa Monica College media professor Jacquelyn Horwitz was on her way to teach a class at the Bundy campus when a private jet from the Santa Monica Municipal Airport flew a little too close for comfort.

"That thing was right above my head," said Horwitz, while sharing her feelings of what she called a "highly dangerous" location for an airport. "Had there been a malfunction, I'd be dead."

Debates about whether SMO should remain intact as a functioning airport have once again risen due to the Sept. 29 crash of a jet at the airport, which left four dead.

According to the Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic website, in 1984, the city of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration settled an agreement that gave airport control over to the city. That contract is set to expire in 2015.

Stemios Mharides, a
cting airport manager of SMO, said that the airport staff and management have no input on the fate of the airport, as it is the city council and the FAA that direct those decisions.

"Our sole responsibility is to take care of the operations of the airport," said Mharides.

As far as the investigation of safety procedures and defects within the airport is concerned, Mharides said that it is the National Transportation Safety Board, and not the airport management that handles the investigation's progress.

Residents against keeping the airport in place after 2015 have been weighing alternative options of a possible airport removal, and what that would mean for the city of Santa Monica.

The most speculated renovation would be to turn the airport into the largest park in Santa Monica, supported by the coalition group Airport2Park. According to the organization's website, the park would allow a wide range of new activities such as walking, hiking, jogging, and cycling.

The plan even includes building a playground within the park. The intent of these organizations is pure, and I do agree with the sentiment for change.

The thought that an airport can remain operating in such close proximity to a residential area without any backlash or consequence is a fantasy within the mind of delusional individuals.

With SMC's Bundy and Airport campuses being in such close proximity to the airport, the current location of the airport puts the lives of thousands of students at risk every single day.

"It's just scary,"
said Horwitz. "There are too many residents. There are too many students coming and going."

An extremist would say that taking risks is a necessity for the advancement of an ever-growing world. But when the lives of thousands of students and residents alike are being jeopardized each time a jet flies onto the runway, the risk is hardly worth the reward.

The victor of this battle lies within whichever side tugs harder. There are environmentalists who believe the airport should be turned into an oasis for those looking to spend afternoons out with their white picket fence family, strolling down the park while smelling the fresh grassy product of mother nature.

Other, much more money-centered individuals, focus on the amount of zeros the airport provides to the city and the number of jobs it supports.

According to HR&A; Advisors, Inc., SMO contributes around $275 million to the city's economy, and it supports nearly 1,475 jobs.

That is indeed a hefty sum of money being deposited into the bank of Santa Monica's many luxuries such as its businesses and schools. It must be hard to care about innocent lives at stake while the airport is stacking up money in the bank.

Still, one must maintain a sense of morality and realize that keeping the airport there is simply a bad idea. People who are pro-airport are likely to ramble about how it was simply one accident and how there is a low chance of it happening again.

According to a study by the Santa Monica Patch, there have been at least five accidents within the last decade that involved a plane missing the runway.

For every one of these planes that narrowly misses its mark by a few feet, a resident of Santa Monica is at risk of being treated to a special 3-D version of "Final Destination."

The airport needs to go, but a park is not a logical idea either. The fact that SMO is a revenue machine for the city of Santa Monica should derail any hopes of park implications. A park would not be able to match the revenue that the airport currently generates, nor the jobs it employs.

A recreation center and even the long-shot of a National Football League stadium, have been speculated. These would make more ideal match-ups for SMO's revenue and job employment.

Sadly, the airport is not going anywhere anytime soon. A park victory over SMO seems more like a pipe dream than a reality. With no other options being considered, SMO will remain intact, while the lives of thousands of Santa Monica residents stay at risk every day.