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Local officials, residents criticize FAA’s lack of response to noise issues

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A commercial airliner takes off at Hollywood Burbank Airport. Local and federal representatives voiced their disapproval of the lack of action taken by the Federal Aviation Administration to remedy the airplane noise issue over the south San Fernando Valley on Wednesday.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

After sitting through lengthy meetings over the last four months, members of the Southern San Fernando Valley Airplane Noise Task Force are becoming frustrated with the lack of information and inaction from the Federal Aviation Administration.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport in Burbank, task force members were expecting to hear responses to questions they have brought forward to officials from the FAA and aviation consultant HMMH Inc. during previous sessions on how to remedy noise issues caused by flights out of Hollywood Burbank and Van Nuys airports.

They were also hoping for feedback on the feasibility of several suggestions made by community groups to solve the issue.

Instead, the task force and the public were given presentations from the FAA explaining how complex and congested the airspace is in Southern California and the difficulties Air Traffic Control has of managing flights in the region.

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“I had come to this meeting with the expectation of getting a lengthy presentation in response to the lengthy list of questions we had already asked the FAA, among which were the analysis of various options that have been presented to this task force for immediate relief,” said task force member and Los Angeles Councilman Paul Krekorian.

“I would have hoped that by now we could have had responses to some of those suggestions, as least whether or not they are worthy of further study [or] infeasible in the FAA’s view, but we have not heard those answers,” he added.

More pressure was applied on the FAA by Brent Robinson, district director for Sen. Kamala Harris’ Los Angeles headquarters.

Robinson told FAA officials that evening the senator had sent the federal agency several letters asking for the standard operating procedures and highlighting concerns that her constituents have had for the last two years, but she has yet to receive a response or the information she had asked for.

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He also asked whether the FAA had moved forward with implementing noise abatement requirements laid out in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. He said Harris and other legislators believe those steps have not been implemented.

“Sen. Harris has received thousands of constituent correspondences regarding this issue,” Robinson said. “Among those correspondences, it was made clear that noise abatement was a top concern for the impacted communities. Considering the lack of implementation that was previously discussed, the senator is now deeply concerned that even if this task force is able to provide a feasible recommendation to the FAA that such a recommendation would not be implemented in a timely manner.”

Raquel Girvin, the Western-Pacific region regional administrator for the FAA, said a response to Harris’ letters is being drafted.

John Alford, deputy manager for Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) added that the community has “lost all confidence in the FAA.”

“They don’t think that the FAA is listening to them; they don’t think they’re willing to adjust,” Alford said.

The noise complaints stem from an increased number of airplanes departing from Hollywood Burbank that make their northbound turns over the south San Fernando Valley.

Most of the flights leaving the Burbank airport take off to the south and have historically made their northbound turns near the 101 Freeway.

However, since March 2017 many residents from the south San Fernando Valley — Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino — started to notice that northbound turn over their neighborhoods more frequently.

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A video presented by the FAA on Wednesday depicted about seven airplanes flying out of Hollywood Burbank in a matter of 15 minutes.

Over the last year, consulting firm Landrum & Brown and HMMH, as well as the FAA have determined that flights out of Hollywood Burbank have indeed shifted further south.

Residents and community groups pin the blame on the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, for the uptick in noise and frequency of flights.

NextGen is a satellite-based radar system the FAA has been implementing around the country to increase flight safety and efficiency.

The Southern California Metroplex, which is how the FAA classifies the system in the local region, was implemented in March 2017, around the same time residents in the south San Fernando Valley began to notice more airplanes flying overhead.

Several community groups — Studio City for Quiet Skies, Sherman Oaks/Encino for Quiet Skies and UproarLA — have given presentations to the task force during previous meetings asking for the same result, which was to move the flights back to where they were before 2017 and have pilots turn their airplanes sooner.

Studio City resident Suellen Wagner, co-founder of the community group Studio City for Quiet Skies, said on Friday she was not happy with the responses given by FAA officials during Wednesday’s meeting.

She and her neighbors were tired of hearing that the flight paths have shifted and instead want immediate relief.

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“The FAA is stuck in denial and are in a pattern of delay, and they are continuing to lie and obfuscate data while ignoring the crisis in our community,” Wagner said. “There were no answers given to our representatives’ questions and no solutions reviewed.”

Vicky Herman, a Sherman Oaks resident and member of the community group Sherman Oaks/Encino for Quiet Skies, concurred with Wagner and added that the FAA was careless when implementing NextGen in Southern California.

“This is all about money and we’re sacrificial lambs at the altar of aviation,” Herman said. “It’s all in the guise of safety and efficiency, but they never took into account that they were going to kill people underneath these dangerous, arbitrary and capricious flight paths.”

The next Southern San Fernando Valley Airplane Noise Task Force is scheduled for Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport, 2500 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank.

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