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L.B. Airport Told to Add 14 Flights to Daily Schedule

February 09, 1989|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The city is preparing to tackle the task of implementing two orders from a federal judge that will affect people who live near Long Beach Airport.

The first requires that airport noise be spread around to neighborhoods not previously affected. The second, issued this week, requires the city to allow 14 more flights a day,

The city is also considering limiting noise by restricting non-commercial jets, in keeping with the federal court ruling, according to a lawyer for the city.

U.S. District Judge Laughlin Waters, who Monday ordered the number of daily flights increased to 40, has told the city that it cannot stop noise by limiting flights.

"If you want to impact noise, you've got to spread it, not stop it. That's implicit" in the judge's order, said attorney Lee L. Blackman, who is representing the city in airport litigation.

Could Add to Noise

That means making greater use of an east-west runway by smaller jets, Blackman said. Depending on how it is implemented, such a move would potentially add to aircraft noise in Signal Hill, the northern section of the Wrigley area and part of the west side if aircraft follow a route above the northbound San Diego Freeway.

But it would shift some of the additional noise away from neighborhoods to the northwest. At present, virtually all aircraft take off over California Heights, Bixby Knolls and North Long Beach.

The city may also restrict use of the airport by older-model executive jets that fail to meet the latest noise standards, Blackman said.

Waters noted that the airport is failing to make full use of its shorter east-west runway when he ruled last November that the city has been too restrictive in accommodating airline flights.

The judge said city officials could take steps to handle more flights without abandoning efforts to control aircraft noise. He ordered the airlines and city officials to try working out an agreement to raise the number of flights, which had been set at 26 a day.

On Monday, the judge increased the number of commercial flights to 40 a day after the city and the airlines failed to come to terms. The city had proposed 32 flights; the airlines wanted 53.

As part of the decision, attorneys said they believe that a daily limit--imposed by the judge in November--of 25 short-hop commuter flights will be lifted.

City's Rights Voiced

The limit seems unnecessary because commuter airlines had not been using their entire allotment of flights, and their propeller-powered planes are generally quieter than commercial jetliners.

Blackman disagreed with the judge's decision to increase the number of commercial flights by 14 a day. "We believe the city is entitled to regulate in the interest of environmental quality," Blackman said.

John J. Lyons, one of the key attorneys representing the airlines, said he was "somewhat disappointed" that Waters did not allow more than 40 flights a day. He said the additional flights should start as soon as the city divvies them up among the airlines.

An attorney who represented homeowners opposed to aircraft noise said the judge's increase appears to be a "fair compromise" between city and airline positions.

"Obviously, the homeowners would not like to see any increase in flights, but . . . I think (40 daily flights) is a fair, middle-ground position," said attorney Michael A. Thurman, who represented Houses Under Stress & Hazard in court proceedings last year.

Blackman said ideas such as making expanded use of the east-west runway, officially known as 25-Left, and the restrictions on private business jets will be discussed with the airlines in hammering out more specific terms to implement the judge's order, pending an appeal by the city.

He said a city task force once recommended expanded use of the east-west runway, but the City Council nixed the idea because it said spreading the problem around is not the solution to airport noise.

More Noise Over East End?

Thurman said he is concerned about not only the additional noise over the west side of the airport, but about whether aircraft landing on the east-west runway might create noise for homeowners in the city's East End.

The east-west runway is too short to handle large commercial jets, but could take a greater load of smaller general-aviation planes, some of which can have noise levels approaching those of much bigger aircraft.

The city and airlines are supposed to report back to Waters on July 17 on the impact of the added flights. Waters would have the option of altering the number of daily flights based on the report.

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