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Valley Perspective | SECOND OPINION

Politics, Not FAA, Blocks Noise Relief

Airport: To preserve quality of life, officials must act on a helicopter curfew, phase-outs of some aircraft and other measures.

April 12, 1998|GERALD A. SILVER and MYRNA L. SILVER | Gerald A. Silver is president of Homeowners of Encino. Myrna L. Silver is a writer. Both live in Encino

San Fernando Valley residents are being bombarded with more jet and helicopter noise from Van Nuys Airport than ever before.

Nonetheless, the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. and airport tenants have been heavily lobbying the City Council and airport commission and seek to destroy any effective noise regulation. The claims of lost jobs and profits are fraught with misinformation. Here are some facts to set the record straight.

* Myth 1. There is no need for a mandatory Stage II phase-out regulation, since noisy Stage II jet aircraft will be eliminated by attrition. Fact: History shows this to be false. Many of the top 20 jet operators at Van Nuys still use noisy aircraft manufactured in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The economic climate makes older planes even more attractive. Several corporations may share one jet and put their own planes on the market at low prices. A phase-out of Stage II jets at Van Nuys will not happen unless there is a legal mandate.

* Myth 2. The FAA has exclusive control over the phasing out of noisy Stage II jets and will not allow this to happen at Van Nuys. Fact: The FAA approved the Airport Noise and Capacity Act on Oct. 1, 1990. It established a mechanism to phase out older Stage II jets and provided a grandfather clause for any noise regulation proposed before Oct. 1, 1990. Since the airport commission had proposed a phase-out of Stage II aircraft at Van Nuys well before this date, such action would clearly be legal.

* Myth 3. The Van Nuys noise problem is not as severe as that of LAX, Burbank or other airports with numerous large air carrier operations. Fact: The FAA mandated a phase-out of Stage II aircraft by the year 2000. But this will not impact Van Nuys because it does not affect general aviation aircraft under 75,000 pounds, which includes virtually all the many corporate jets at Van Nuys. The noise exposure contour for a Lear 25 or Gulfstream III is vastly larger than that of a Boeing 757-200, 737-300, MD-82 or A300.

* Myth 4. The noise contours at Van Nuys Airport have been shrinking. Fact: In 1990 there were 1.82 square miles of incompatible land use around Van Nuys Airport, using state mandated noise measures. Although there was some immediate improvement because of a "Fly Friendly" program, the contour has again increased due to a jump in Stage II operations. Many itinerant Stage II aircraft fly into Van Nuys for fuel or repairs because they are banned elsewhere.

* Myth 5: Helicopters are controlled by the FAA, and it is beyond the airport commission's authority to place a 7 a.m. curfew or other controls on them. Fact: This myth is espoused by helicopter operators who do not want regulations on their activity. The FAA states that helicopters are Stage II aircraft and thus qualify under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act phase-out rules. This allows a helicopter curfew to be imposed. Santa Monica Airport, for example, does not allow helicopters to fly out before 7 a.m., except for emergencies. Why should Van Nuys become the helicopter noise dumping ground of the region?

* Myth 6: The proposed noise regulation was prepared hastily, without adequate consultation with affected parties and without due notice. Fact: The current noise regulation proposal was developed in consultation with Van Nuys tenants and operators. Numerous properly noticed hearings were conducted and a full environmental impact report was made.

* Myth 7: Airport operators and tenants work hard to keep the noise down and avoid bringing in large, noisy aircraft. They discourage night and weekend operations and helicopter training. Fact: This myth is easily dispelled by the Van Nuys Airport marketing and promotional information aimed at jet owners worldwide. One tenant advertises that their "new larger facility--which we moved into in 1994--can hold a DC-9. It features a concrete ramp that will support a Boeing category aircraft. Thus we can modify or customize virtually every corporate aircraft or helicopter flown today."

Rules ban helicopter training flights at Van Nuys. Some helicopter flight schools ignore this rule and promote training for "international students" and offer a broad range of helicopter training courses and tours as well.

Residents have waited patiently for years for noise relief. The airport commissioners and City Council must now go forward promptly and implement:

* A non-addition rule that would prohibit any more noisy jets from joining the Van Nuys fleet.

* A phase-out of existing Stage II aircraft at the airport.

* A 7 a.m. helicopter curfew.

To do less is to sell out the interests of Valley residents and to further undermine our quality of life. Communities surrounding Van Nuys Airport are tired of empty promises. The only thing that prevents effective noise controls at Van Nuys is the political will--not the FAA.

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