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Grand Jury Opposes Airport Noise Plan

August 04, 1988|MAYERENE BARKER | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County Grand Jury committee has issued a report opposing a "share-the-noise" proposal to route more aircraft to the east over the three cities that own Burbank Airport.

The report, presented Monday to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, also commended airport authorities for their efforts to reduce aircraft noise and handle community noise complaints.

Airport opponents were quick to call the report, prepared by the grand jury's 5-member government operations committee, a "whitewash," saying they were not given a chance to meet with the grand jury panel.

Pilots' Decision

While noting that 85% of aircraft takeoffs are to the south, concentrating noise over communities southwest and west of the airport, the report discounted the share-the-noise plan.

Selection of a runway should be based on safety, the report concluded, and that decision rests solely with pilots, "even if air traffic control, airline management, the airport proprietor or the community at large would prefer something else."

The share-the-noise plan has been the main demand of homeowner groups and their political allies, and has been the subject of a series of rancorous debates. Protesters have demanded that the airport try to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration and pilots, who have the final say, to take off at least half the time toward the east.

Los Angeles-based officeholders in the City Council, state Legislature and Congress have tried to compel the airport authority to adopt such a policy.

Pilot Preference

The authority argues that it is powerless to enforce such a restriction on pilots, who prefer to take off to the south because geography, wind and air traffic patterns make that the safest route.

The grand jury panel noted that the authority has reduced noise by 80% since 1978 by restricting airlines to quieter aircraft. It commended the airport authority "for its efforts in dealing with community complaints by listening, responding and educating the citizens in the surrounding communities on the various facts and issues that relate to this very complex matter."

The report was included in the grand jury's 1987-88 final report released last month.

Victor Gill, the airport's manager of community relations, said committee Chairwoman Carolyn Murphy Milner telephoned him last fall and asked that a meeting between the committee and airport officials be set up. The committee met Oct. 8 with Gill, Thomas Greer, director of airport services, and Richard Vacar, manager of airport affairs, and visited the airport again Nov. 12.

The report was a surprise to the airport administrators, Gill said. "We thought it was just another in a long line of briefings we've held with any number of organizations."

Airport officials said they understood that the committee looked into the airport noise problem at the suggestion of a grand jury member who lives in the area.

"How the grand jury could fail to contact the residents is a fault of major proportion," said Margie Gee, a longtime airport critic who had served on the airport authority.

"All they've really done is afford the airport more credibility by not even bringing to light the residents' complaints," said Don Schultz, president of Ban Airport Noise.

"This smacks of a real whitewash," said Tom Paterson, a leader of the North Hollywood Residents Assn., who said he knew nothing of preparations for the report.

However, Milner said in the report that she met with a group of Burbank residents "to hear first-hand the noise from departing aircraft" and complaints.

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