Sunday's jetliner accident at Burbank Airport--thought to be the first involving a commercial plane in the facility's 69-year history--brought into focus long-standing safety concerns, not over the length of the runway but its proximity to the aged terminal.
The terminal is 313 feet from the center line of the nearest runway, although the Federal Aviation Administration design standard calls for at least 750 feet between the two.
There are concerns that a plane making a wayward landing or takeoff could crash into a row of parked planes or the terminal itself.
Authorities complained publicly of the need for a new terminal after two Burbank-bound commercial jets were diverted to other airports for emergency landings in 1996.
"We are managing risk," Carl Raggio, then president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, said at the time. "The airport is safe because the pilot who has trouble will go someplace else."
Others called the building unsafe.
Last year the airport authority's executive director, Tom Greer, continued to call for a new terminal.
"We need a new terminal and we need it now," he wrote in a March 1999 opinion piece in The Times.
The airport ranks between 55th and 60th among the nation's 400 commercial airports in flights and passenger volume.
Officials said they could recall no prior commercial crashes at the airfield and only two fatal accidents of private aircraft there in the 1990s.
Authorities said the airport has handled 4.7 million passengers for the past three years, a decline from a peak of 4.9 million in 1995.
Burbank Airport spokesman Victor Gill said the roughly 6,000-foot east-west runway involved in Sunday's accident is relatively short but by no means the shortest used by commercial jetliners.
"There are several airports around the country with major airline service using shorter runways," Gill said. "The one that comes immediately to mind is John Wayne Airport in Orange County with a distance of approximately 5,700 feet."
An Alaska Airlines MD-80 jetliner made a successful emergency landing at Burbank Airport in July 1998 after sucking a bird into one of its two engines during takeoff.
In June 1996, a single-engine plane crashed into the Golden State Freeway in Sun Valley moments after taking off from Burbank Airport, killing the pilot and his parents.
The pilot's father, G. David Schine, was the focus of the legendary congressional hearings in the 1950s that led to the downfall of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. His wife was a former Miss Universe.
Four men were killed in 1990 shortly after their Piper Warrior took off from Burbank during a training flight to Santa Barbara. The plane's load was too heavy and it failed to maintain sufficient airspeed, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which found the pilot was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol.