Former Hollywood Burbank Airport director criticizes reaction to noise concerns


For the past two years, Dan Feger has spent most of his days enjoying retirement at his home in Oxnard, which is just minutes away from the beach.

Feger, who was the executive director of the Hollywood Burbank Airport from 2008 to 2016, often brings his dogs down to the beach for a casual stroll, and the worries of the day-to-day operations of the airfield he used to oversee are long behind him.

Or so he thought.

On Monday, Feger made a surprise appearance at the Burbank airport to share his ideas on how to address aircraft noise from departing flights and ensure the replacement terminal — a project he worked on during his 29-year career at the airport — comes to fruition.

Feger said during an interview on Wednesday he has been keeping tabs on the progress of the replacement terminal by watching the live-streams of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority’s meetings.

Instead of seeing the project advance, he has watched residents from Studio City and the south San Fernando Valley bombard airport commissioners with noise complaints.

“I watch the meetings month after month, and it’s been people getting up and [talking about aircraft noise],” Feger said. “It was like a replay of what I went through in the 1980s and the 1990s. It was the same thing.”

Feger was hired by Hollywood Burbank in 1988 as an airport engineer to help get a replacement terminal built and was named its executive director in 2008.

For the past two years, residents in the Los Angeles neighborhoods southwest of Hollywood Burbank have said they’re experiencing an increase in noise from flights taking off from the local airport.

Many residents from that area have consistently made the airport authority aware of the issue and have been pressuring officials to fix it immediately.

A report compiled by consulting firm Landrum & Brown in October 2018 confirmed that departing flight paths from the Burbank airport have been shifting south — from making their northbound turns over the 101 Freeway to above Studio City and Sherman Oaks.

Residents blame the increased noise on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, a satellite-based navigation system used nationwide and said to have been mplemented at airports in Southern California starting in March 2017.

However, Hollywood Burbank officials stated last month that the system, designed to make flights more fuel and time efficient, was not implemented at the local airport.

Feger said the current public outrage is similar to what Burbank airport officials faced more than 30 years ago — also as a replacement terminal was being proposed.

For several decades, Hollywood Burbank has been trying to build a new terminal to replace the current 89-year-old facility.

Airport officials have failed several times over the last 40 years to get the project off the ground — stopped by lengthy and costly legal battles with Los Angeles and Burbank officials regarding noise.

Then, in 2016, Burbank voters approved Measure B, which allowed Hollywood Burbank to move forward with a 14-gate, 355,000-square-foot replacement terminal on the northeast quadrant of the airfield — known as the B-6 site — and to approve a development agreement between the airport authority and the city of Burbank outlining the terms of the project.

Airport officials are currently waiting for the FAA to complete its review of the environmental-impact statement for the terminal, and design charrette workshops have been held for several months to gather public input regarding what the new facility should look like and the amenities it should have.

This has been the farthest Hollywood Burbank has gotten in the replacement terminal process, but the recent uproar from south San Fernando residents has Feger concerned, fearing that outcomes from decades past will occur again and that the nearly 30 years of work at the airport will be for naught.

“Philosopher George Santayana said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’” Feger said. “That quote entirely applies to the saga of the Hollywood Burbank Airport.”

He added that until the FAA is ready to change the flight paths, the airport “needs to step up” and solve this issue.

Feger said he has multiple approaches to both remedy the noise complaints and ensure the replacement terminal project stays on track.

First, he recommends that airport officials offer the airlines monetary incentives to be good neighbors.

In addition to that, he suggests that pilots should abandon using the new instrumentation and fly out of Hollywood Burbank using manual controls, departing at a steeper ascending angle and turning before flying over Studio City.

The other recommendation is to shorten Runway 15, which most airlines use when flying out of Hollywood Burbank. Feger said this would limit the load size for each flight, making it less desirable for airlines to use bigger planes with larger passenger capacities.

Lighter loads on smaller planes would make it easier for pilots to ascend more quickly out of the airport, Feger said.

Before appearing in front of the airport authority on Monday, Feger sent these and other recommendations to the airport’s Replacement Terminal Ad Hoc Committee in an email dated June 26.

In a letter dated July 8, Frank Miller, Hollywood Burbank’s current executive director, replied to Feger, saying that he disagrees with Feger’s comment that the airport “has gone on shirking its responsibility” regarding the noise complaints.

“My staff and I are engaged with [Los Angeles World Airports] personnel to convene a noise task force that will work with the community and stakeholders to help identify potential actions to reduce noise impacts from aircraft utilizing [Hollywood Burbank Airport] and [Van Nuys Airport],” Miller wrote.

Over the past month, the airport has been in the process of creating a task force — with members from Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, four Los Angeles districts and federal representatives — to create a solution to solve the noise issues and deliver the findings to the FAA.

Additionally, the airport authority on June 17 approved a resolution asking the FAA to reroute departing flights from Hollywood Burbank away from the south San Fernando Valley.

Miller declined to provide further comment about Feger’s remarks.

Feger said he has been frustrated with the airport’s actions lately, but remains enthusiastic about the progress of the terminal project.

“I know there’s a solution that the authority can implement right now that would relieve the noise problem,” Feger said. “I know that there’s a pathway that the airport authority could go down, that it could build a replacement terminal building and build it today.”