A controversial bid by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) to shift the takeoffs of up to half of Burbank Airport's flights away from the eastern San Fernando Valley communities he represents was killed by a congressional committee Wednesday, a Berman aide said.
A House and Senate conference committee decided to shelve Berman's proposal, which would have withheld federal improvement grants of up to $40 million from Burbank Airport until it rerouted up to 50% of the flights to the east over Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.
The committee is negotiating differences in the House and Senate version of a massive airport improvement bill. The Burbank Airport "share-the-noise" provision, inserted by Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose) at Berman's request, was in the House bill, but not in its Senate counterpart.
"The senators were unhappy with the amendment as it stood because it sets precedent for the Congress to legislate for a specific airport," said Berman's administrative assistant, Gene Smith.
She said Berman will seek to have substitute language inserted to give the sense that Congress feels the airport should take the action. Such action, in the form of a non-binding resolution, would apparently have no impact on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which has opposed Berman's initiative.
An aide to Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale), whose district would have borne the brunt of the redirected flights, expressed cautious optimism.
"It looks good now, but it's not set in concrete," said David Joergenson, Moorhead's legislative assistant. "People are still talking."
He said Mineta, who chairs the aviation subcommittee of the House Public Works Committee, had been instructed "to work out compromise language."
Airport Authority spokesman Victor Gill said shelving Berman's proposal would be a wise move. The authority plans to conclude an ongoing Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored noise study before deciding whether flights should be rerouted and other steps taken to reduce noise.
Among the eight possible routing plans the authority will consider, Gill said, are several that would decrease the number of flights over Berman's constituents. One viable option would evenly distribute a third of the flights to the east, south and west of the airport, respectively, he added.
About 90% of all commercial flights take off to the southwest and circle to the west and north over parts of Burbank, North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys. These areas are largely represented by Berman.
Berman contended that this is because airport commissioners are "hell-bent on protecting their own constituents from any noise."
Opponents of Berman's proposal counter that eastbound takeoffs are less safe because of crosswinds and barriers posed by the Verdugo Mountains east of the airport. Also, FAA traffic controllers and pilots, who make takeoff decisions, favor the north-south runway because it is longer than the east-west runway and because it runs into the wind.
Smith said Berman's ability to steer his rerouting provision through the House should at least send a message to the Airport Authority.
"We certainly hope they will recognize the magnitude of the problem and the intensity of the problem and the unfairness of the present situation."