In a major advance in the struggle over jet noise at Van Nuys Airport, the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners approved a study Thursday that could lead to the federal government paying for most of a $15-million residential soundproofing program.
The study also recommends expanding the airport's nighttime takeoff curfew for jet planes.
Currently, only the noisiest jets are banned from taking off between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Under the proposal, all jets would be barred from taking off during those hours, said airport manager Selena Birk.
Airport officials said the Federal Aviation Administration probably will ask for an economic impact study and further hearings on broadening the curfew, which would keep three to five jets per night from taking off.
But overall, Birk said, the decision is a step in the right direction. "I think it'll be a great asset to the Valley," she said.
If the FAA approves the document, the agency will allocate money to pay for 80% of the soundproofing.
The soundproofing initiative is already underway, with insulation, air-conditioning and other improvements available to 1,050 homes most affected by jet noise.
The study includes 35 other recommendations, some of which also may be eligible for federal funds, Birk said. The list was drawn up by a committee of residents and aviation business representatives. They address matters from the altitudes of city-owned helicopters to the amount of runway space.
Committee member Don Schultz said the recommendations would "significantly improve the noise situation at Van Nuys Airport."
"The fact that they are going to send the whole package off to the FAA is a real breakthrough," said Schultz, who is also president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn.
But another resident on the committee, Gerald Silver, president of the homeowner coalition Stop the Noise, said he does not trust the board's motives.
"They want the $15 million to soundproof those houses," Silver said. "Then they can say of those few houses, which is just a postage-stamp-sized area, 'Look, we don't have a noise problem.' And then they can expand the number of helicopters and jets."
Members of the airport board could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
The committee has two more weeks to make additional recommendations to the airport board. Silver said he would like to include a ban on sightseeing helicopters and airplanes and an extension of weekend curfew hours.
Residents, aviation businesses and public officials have been wrangling over the parameters of the noise study for 12 years.