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Airport Traffic Up--and Will Soon Soar

September 29, 1987|T.W. McGARRY | Times Staff Writer

Traffic at Burbank Airport has increased substantially this year, even before a dramatic 250% increase in flights by Alaska Airlines scheduled to begin this Thursday.

In the first six months of the year, the number of passengers using the airport increased by more than 9%, and operations--takeoffs and landings--by almost 8%, according to statistics kept by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.

The airport was used by 1.55 million passengers in the first six months of this year, a 9.1% increase from 1.42 million passengers in the same period last year. In the first six months of this year, the airport logged 26,958 operations, a 7.8% increase from the 24,998 registered in the same period last year.

Air cargo shipments increased 64%, from 8.3 million pounds in the first six months of 1986 to 13.7 million pounds in the same period this year.

Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines will increase its flights to and from Burbank Airport to 240 per week, compared with a current total of 92, a company spokesman said. Most flights will be to Oakland or San Francisco.

Busiest Air Corridor

Alaska Airlines is challenging for a large part of the lucrative traffic between the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area, the busiest air corridor in the world. Airlines were carrying 8.7 million passengers a year between the two metropolitan areas last year.

Burbank Airport officials estimated the additional flights will swell the area around the airport in which average noise levels exceed state standards from 363 acres to almost 437 acres.

In a related action, a Los Angeles city councilman announced Monday that noise protesters will try to use a hearing on renewal of the airport's state operating license to pressure airport administrators to dissuade airline pilots from taking off over East San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

Councilman Joel Wachs told a news conference he would introduce a motion in the council today instructing the city attorney to intervene in the hearing, scheduled to begin Feb. 8.

Wachs and representatives of San Fernando Valley homeowner groups said the motion will instruct the city attorney "to insist" that the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority be forbidden to build a planned new terminal until it agrees to impose what the noise protesters call a "share-the-noise plan."

The plan would require that the airport authority work for "close to a 50-50 split" between takeoffs to the south--over East Valley neighborhoods--and those to the east--over the three cities that own the airport.

Almost all airline pilots now take off to the south because the south-facing runway is longer, runs downhill, faces away from the Verdugo Mountains and into the usual winds.

The airport authority argues that it has no authority to interfere with takeoff decisions, which are made by airline pilots and federal air traffic controllers.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits eastbound takeoffs because the present terminal is too close to the east-west runway.

Wachs argued that surveys showed 30% to 40% of airline pilots would take off toward the east if the FAA allowed it and the airport authority encouraged them to. Before tha FAA ban, when such takeoffs were legal, less than 5% of pilots opted to take off to the east.

Airport Spokesman Victor Gill argued that Wachs is trying to put the airport in "a Catch-22 situation" by preventing the construction of a new terminal until more jetliners take off to the east, while at the same time the FAA forbids eastbound takeoffs until the present terminal is razed.

Wachs' 2nd Effort

It was the second effort this year by Wachs to influence the City Council to force the airport authority to adopt the "share the noise" plan. He introduced a motion in January calling for the city attorney to bring suit against the authority if it did not adopt the plan voluntarily.

The motion died in April when the city attorney reported to the council that a lawsuit would be dismissed as moot, because the airport authority is currently participating in an FAA-sponsored noise study and also has commissioned an environmental impact study on the effect of a "noise-sharing" program.

The hearing, by the Division of Aeronautics of the state Department of Transportation, will gather evidence and arguments for the Caltrans director to use in deciding whether to renew the airport's "variance," a permit to operate without fully meeting state noise-control regulations.

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