The governors of Burbank Airport have refused--at least for now--to endorse or reject a report calling for more jetliner takeoffs toward the east, a proposal that has become involved in a complicated dispute over aircraft noise, air-travel safety, intercity relationships and federal authority over air traffic.
Despite a threat of a lawsuit by the City of Los Angeles, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority decided Monday to put off action on the "share the noise" proposal until fall.
The threat came in January from Los Angeles Councilmen Joel Wachs and Ernani Bernardi, who asked the council to sue the Airport Authority if commissioners did not endorse the proposal.
"I'm going to do whatever is best for this airport, and Wachs can do whatever he damn pleases," Commissioner Leland Ayers commented as the Airport Authority debated the issue.
Committee Suggested Plan
The share the noise suggestion came from a committee--composed of 19 local, state and federal officials or their representatives--that the authority sponsored under a federal program to involve local officials and citizen groups in airport noise control.
The majority of the committee members urged airport commissioners to endorse their proposal to have 50% of the jetliners take off eastward, over the cities that own the airport--Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.
Almost all jetliners now take off toward the south, and bank westward and northward over Los Angeles neighborhoods in Studio City, North Hollywood and Van Nuys, generating complaints about noise from residents.
Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland, a spokesman for the committee minority, alleged that the majority report was not really aimed at reducing aircraft noise. Instead, he said, the report reflected the thinking of Los Angeles-based officeholders "whose attitude is, 'If we get more noise in Burbank, then the people in Burbank will rise up and deal with the airport.' "
The authority chairman, Robert W. Garcin, questioned why the committee majority urged a 50% split. Citing a statement by airlines using the airport that they might be able to route 30% to 40% of the takeoffs to the east, Garcin asked why the committee had settled on 50% instead of some other figure.
Commissioners then accepted Garcin's ruling that the matter needed environmental study, and so should be included in the environmental impact report for a proposed new terminal, a study expected to be completed in September or October.
Mandating the direction of takeoffs would intrude on decisions that are made now by airlines, Federal Aviation Administration air-traffic controllers, and especially by airline pilots--who have the last word on such flight decisions.
Ban on Eastward Takeoffs
It could not go into effect, in any case, until the airport builds a new terminal, which is not expected to be completed until the 1990s. The FAA has imposed a ban on all eastward takeoffs now because the existing terminal is too close to the runways.
Gerald C. Walton, the FAA tower chief at the airport, noted that pilots almost always take off toward the south because the north-south runway is 700 feet longer than the east-west runway, has a considerable downhill slope toward the south and faces into the prevailing winds, all of which increase takeoff safety.
Don Schultz, head of Ban Airport Noise, a citizens group, said the authority's refusal to act on the report is "a well-orchestrated move by Mr. Garcin, which puts the ball back in the City of Los Angeles' court" without rejecting the report, which could provide grounds for a lawsuit by the city.
Garcin said he is not afraid of such a suit.
"Such litigation would be without basis in fact or law," he said, "and the City of Los Angeles will find itself on the losing end of another suit against Burbank Airport."
Los Angeles in 1984 lost a suit seeking to halt plans for the new terminal.