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Panel Orders Studies of Plans to Cut Jet Noise at 2 Airports

Commission's action could clear the way for new restrictions on LAX late-night departures and a ban on older planes at Van Nuys.

February 19, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Airport commissioners voted Tuesday to order two studies that could eventually help reduce jet noise for communities near Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports.

The so-called Part 161 study for LAX will examine a proposal that would require planes departing at night to fly over the ocean, while the study for Van Nuys -- the busiest general-aviation airfield in the nation -- will look at a possible ban on noisy, older-generation Stage 2 business jets.

Tuesday's board action clears the way for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX and Van Nuys airfields, to seek bids from consulting firms to conduct the studies.

The effort aims "to achieve a balance between aviation needs of our carriers and our surrounding communities," said Ted Stein, president of the Airport Commission.

Federal law requires airports to undertake Part 161 studies, which analyze the benefits and costs of noise-reducing measures, before they can restrict flights. Only a handful of airfields across the country, including Burbank Airport, have attempted such a study, which aviation noise experts say is expensive and time-consuming.

But residents of communities long burdened by airport noise say the trouble is well worth it.

"We need to do this as soon as possible," said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino and Stop the Noise Coalition, urging commissioners at Tuesday's meeting in Van Nuys to adopt noise-control measures.

Permission from the Federal Aviation Administration would be needed to prohibit LAX eastward departures between midnight and 6:30 a.m.

Currently, LAX asks departing late-night jets to fly west over the ocean unless there are winds of at least 10 knots, which justify eastward takeoffs for safety reasons. But the takeoff policy, which is violated by about 50 planes a year, is not enforceable because the FAA has jurisdiction over air operations, according to airport officials.

The offenders, many of them jumbo jets destined for Asia or Australia, fly east before circling south and west -- over large swaths of residential neighborhoods -- toward the Pacific.

The result is a "serious noise disturbance" that wakes up tens of thousands of people, according to an LAX staff report.

The Van Nuys study will analyze financial incentives to encourage greater use of quieter aircraft while penalizing those who fly loud jets.

Other proposals to be analyzed include expanding flight curfews, capping or phasing out helicopters, banning Stage 2 aircraft and limiting the number of Stage 3 jets based at the airport.

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