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Airlines Given Oct. 1 Deadline to Meet Lindbergh Noise Regulations

July 22, 1987|MIKE GRANBERRY | Times Staff Writer

The Board of Port Commissioners, siding with homeowners disturbed by jet noise, voted unanimously Tuesday to set Oct. 1 as a deadline for airlines to comply with restrictions limiting Lindbergh Field departures between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. to new and quieter "Stage 3" jetliners.

Reaction from the airlines was swift and angry.

"I have no idea what we'll do, but we don't like it," said Gordon R. Barrington, manager of public affairs for Delta Air Lines, who urged the commissioners not to impose a deadline. "We have several billion dollars worth of Stage 3 aircraft on order, but you just don't implement that stuff immediately."

Alan B. Wayne, regional director of public affairs for United Airlines, predicted that airlines would "turn away from San Diego in increasing numbers" if noise restrictions continue unabated.

"This is just another chink in the national air transportation system," Wayne said. "We were backed in our opposition to this by the U.S. Postal Service, the (San Diego) Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. This considerably narrows San Diego's attractiveness as an aviation market."

Dan Larsen, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners of the San Diego Unified Port District, called the vote overdue. He said the airlines were overreacting in complaining, since only two flights involving non-Stage 3 aircraft currently depart between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.--a Delta flight at 10:10 and a United flight at 11:30. Stage 3 aircraft, such as the MD-80 and Boeing 737-300, are quieter than the more conventional, and more widely used, Boeing 727s, referred to as Stage 2 aircraft.

'Next to Impossible'

Barrington said Delta hopes to replace its 10:10 p.m. flight, now served by a 727, with a Stage 3 aircraft, but added that such a change could be months in coming. He said moving the time up, even as little as 10 minutes, is "next to impossible."

"People just don't understand," he said. "We have to worry about where that plane is coming from, the time it leaves there, and where it's headed. This really affects cargo service, not just ours but everybody else's. To take cargo from the East to West Coast, or vice versa, almost always means flying at night.

"If this gets any worse, we'll just have to run a lot of our San Diego service out of Los Angeles. It might be more cost-effective in the long run anyway."

Angry residents of Loma Portal, Point Loma and Mission Hills, who spoke at the meeting, said they couldn't care less about readjustments in airline schedules and echoed Larsen's sentiments in calling the deadline overdue.

Sid McSwain, a real estate agent from South Mission Hills, called the vote a "relief" and "a step in the right direction." McSwain said he had "put up with ever-increasing airline noise for 15 years."

"It interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of your home, and it's gotten worse the last few years," he said. "Even people who've moved into the area recently have no idea how bad it actually is until they get there--and can't sleep.

"I'll give you an example. This morning, a plane takes off, waking me up at 6:39 a.m. I had shooter's earplugs in my ears, which lower the decibel level . . . and it's still like the thing's takin' off in my bedroom. I don't know how those people in Loma Portal keep from havin' to go to the bug house. It's really loud there. I don't care who you are, you need eight hours of a good night's sleep. You want some doctor cuttin' on you who hasn't gotten eight hours?"

'Loud as It Can Get'

One man, introducing himself as David Crane, a City Council candidate for District 2, illustrated airport noise by seizing the microphone and yelling at the commissioners, "When they fly over, it's as loud as it can get!"

Barrington, the Delta spokesman, said he felt the airlines were in a "damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't" predicament.

"The public wanted deregulation to get the fares down," he said, "so we have many more flights, and people squawk about noise. It's no threat at all to us to pull flights out (of San Diego), if that's what we have to do. We'd like to stay (at the present level)--it's an attractive, tourist-oriented city. But we won't hang in if we have to suffer."

Barrington said Delta's goal is an entire fleet of Stage 3 aircraft, which won't be reached anytime soon. He said he fears the public will start turning against Stage 3 aircraft and demanding "an even quieter stage, as they started to do after Stage 2 grew in number."

San Diego's history of airport noise, and the problems it causes, seems to support Barrington's argument. A curfew banning flights between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. was imposed by the Port District in 1979. Prior to that time, no restrictions existed. A 1985 regulation banned 707s and DC-8s not equipped with noise-deadening "hush kits."

Larsen, the commissioners' chairman, said moving the airport was "not necessarily" the best idea.

"We're just saying we want quieter airplanes," he said. "It's no different from the smog issue. The auto companies didn't do anything about smog until Californians started hollerin' about it. Maybe we can have the same effect on the airline industry and noise."

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