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Huntington Beach group gives workshop crowd a status report on efforts to alleviate air traffic noise

Huntington Beach group gives workshop crowd a status report on efforts to alleviate air traffic noise
About 100 people attended an Air Traffic Noise Working Group workshop Wednesday in Huntington Beach to hear about the group’s effort to alleviate jet noise in the city. (Photo by Priscella Vega)

About 100 people crowded the Senior Center at Central Park in Huntington Beach on Wednesday to learn about a local group’s effort to gain relief for residents who say jet noise has damaged their quality of life.

The three-hour workshop included a presentation led by members of the Air Traffic Noise Working Group, which includes City Council members Patrick Brenden and Barbara Delgleize and Chief Assistant City Attorney Mike Vigliotta.

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Before the presentation, Brenden acknowledged that many in the audience wanted to vent their frustration about airliners screaming over their homes and assured them that everyone at the meeting was “in this together.”

Brenden said the meeting was more a status report on what the group has learned thus far, rather than a presentation of definitive solutions.

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The Air Traffic Noise Working Group, created in January, has 12 members, some of whom are former airline pilots. Its aim is to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration, area airports and cities such as Newport Beach and Laguna Beach to to find a solution to the overhead noise.

Issues with air traffic noise in several Orange County cities stem mostly from John Wayne Airport, but Brenden said Huntington Beach is most affected by planes using Long Beach Airport.

At meetings with officials from Long Beach and John Wayne airports and the FAA, members of the Huntington Beach group have proposed modifying aircraft approaches.

Huntington Beach residents have increasingly complained in the past year about airplane noise linked to Long Beach Airport, pictured.
Huntington Beach residents have increasingly complained in the past year about airplane noise linked to Long Beach Airport, pictured. (File Photo / Los Angeles Times)

Huntington residents have increasingly complained about the noise since the FAA implemented flight path alterations in 2017, but city officials said the issue dates as far back as 2007. The FAA says more than two dozen air routes have historically passed over Huntington Beach.

The recent flight path alterations are part of the FAA’s Southern California Metroplex project covering the region’s airports, including Long Beach and John Wayne. The agency said the changes would shore up inefficiencies, save fuel and reduce carbon emissions and flight delays.

In April, Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey asked county and federal officials to address noise related to the FAA’s regional air traffic system, describing Huntington as an “epicenter” for “heavily concentrated new landing and flyover patterns.”

Also that month, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) asked JetBlue, a primary carrier at Long Beach Airport, to retrofit some of its planes to help minimize noise.

Rohrabacher also proposed four amendments to the FAA’s annual reauthorization bill that he said would ease aircraft noise in Orange County. The amendments failed on a 375-37 vote in the House of Representatives.

Other House amendments calling on the federal government to take steps to reduce the noise and health effects of commercial air traffic passed.

Other local cities such as Newport Beach and Laguna Beach also have been unhappy with the FAA’s takeoff and landing patterns. Both cities sued the agency over the new system in 2016, saying the project’s environmental review, which determined there would be no significant effects, was inadequate.

Newport and Laguna reached settlements of their lawsuits in January.

Vigliotta said Wednesday that legal action would be an “uphill battle” for Huntington Beach because the city didn’t sue in 2016 over the environmental assessment.

“The first instinct was to sue them,” Brenden said. “We looked at that, but once we file a lawsuit against the FAA, that eliminates potential for dialogue.”

Phil Burtis, a member of the working group, shared data he collected on flight paths over Huntington Beach. When he asked audience members to raise their hand if they believe air traffic noise has increased, it seemed everyone’s hand shot up.

Burtis shared an image with lines scribbled across a map of Huntington Beach. The lines represented flight paths in an eight-hour period on a day in March.

Another poster board on display showed a map of the United States and pinpointed cities dealing with complaints of excessive air traffic noise.

Poster boards displayed at Wednesday’s Air Traffic Noise Working Group workshop in Huntington Beach indicate area flight patterns.
Poster boards displayed at Wednesday’s Air Traffic Noise Working Group workshop in Huntington Beach indicate area flight patterns. (Photo by Priscella Vega)

During a question-and-answer session, residents and out-of-towners shared their efforts to push back against airplane noise and encouraged one another to file noise complaints on airline websites.

Joe Mello of Long Beach encouraged people at the workshop to attend a June 26 Long Beach City Council hearing on JetBlue’s appeal for exemptions to an evening flight curfew.

Newport Beach resident Susan Dvorak — who is part of Citizens Against Airport Noise and Pollution, a countywide grassroots organization targeting aircraft noise related to John Wayne Airport — said Newport and Huntington Beach need to work together, though their approaches may have been different.

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