Despite the defeat last week of a congressional measure that would have cut federal funding to the Burbank Airport unless it directed some planes to take off east toward Glendale, federal and local officials concede that increased air traffic noise over the city is inevitable.
"There probably will be more flights" taking off over Glendale once the airport builds a new terminal, Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale) said in an interview Tuesday.
Moorhead and Glendale anti-noise groups have vehemently fought efforts by homeowners in the San Fernando Valley to redistribute airline operation noise from Valley communities to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, the three cities that own and operate the airport.
Flights to East Inevitable
Moorhead argues that eastern takeoffs are unsafe, because of the shortness of the runway, adverse wind direction and close proximity of the Verdugo Mountains. But he also said that flights to the east are inevitable once the airport completes a lengthy noise study and implements improvements.
The Federal Aviation Administration several years ago ordered the airport to cease using its east-west runway for commercial flights because the runway is too close to the terminal. But once the terminal is relocated, Moorhead said, easterly takeoffs are bound to resume.
"There will be some planes at certain times under certain circumstances" that will use the east-west runway, Moorhead said, which will increase noise over communities east of the airport. However, Moorhead said, the rules "have to be up to the air traffic controllers and the pilots. They are the ones who determine the safety factor."
Moorhead is credited for defeating the congressional measure last week that 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 controversial provision was written by Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), who has worked since his election to Congress five years ago to force the airport to reduce the number of flights and amount of noise over Valley communities. Berman maintains that the noise should be evenly distributed toward constituents of the cities that operate the airport.
Moorhead, however, said that a congressional order that flights take off to the east is dangerous. He said the measure would have "tried to coerce traffic controllers and pilots to send planes off into a direction that was not safe." He said air controllers and pilots "are the people who should be making the decisions, not the politicians."
Moorhead and others argued that the measure would set an unwelcome precedent for Congress to legislate restrictions on a specific airport. The argument drew support from other legislators, particularly Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), who feared that Congress could change airport noise patterns in his own district, according to David Joergenson, Moorhead's legislative assistant.
At Berman's request, the Burbank Airport "share-the-noise" provision was inserted by Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose) in a House version of a massive airport improvement bill. But the restrictions were dropped late Thursday by a conference committee that is negotiating the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Joergenson said Mineta, who chairs the aviation subcommittee of the House Public Works Committee, tried to reinsert compromise language into the bill, but that effort also failed.
Fighting New Terminal
San Fernando Valley residents and their congressional representatives have been fighting for nine years to block construction of a new terminal that is proposed to be twice the size of the structure now.
The FAA has ordered airport administrators to build a new terminal because the present structure, built more than 50 years ago, is too close to the runways to meet modern safety regulations.
Anti-noise groups concede that a new terminal is needed but they want the replacement terminal to be the same size as the present structure in order to limit increases in flights. Airport officials argue that federal law prohibits restrictions on flights.
Airport Authority spokesman Victor Gill said shelving Berman's proposal was a wise move. The authority plans to conclude an ongoing FAA-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, 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.