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Neighbors pressure Hollywood Burbank Airport officials to fix flight paths

The Hollywood Burbank Airport has a new sign, as seen on the main tower of the airfield, in Burbank
Residents from Studio City and Sherman Oaks continued to raise their noise concerns stemming from Hollywood Burbank Airport.
(File Photo)

More than 80 people from Studio City, Sherman Oaks and the south San Fernando Valley let members of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority know they want departing flight paths from Hollywood Burbank Airport to change immediately.

Airport officials updated the public Monday morning on the current status of setting up a meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss the noise concerns affecting those Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Frank Miller, executive director of Hollywood Burbank, said the airport will take the lead in creating a forum where local airfield officials can talk with FAA representatives and hopefully develop an alternative departure route from the airport.

“I would hope that, at the end of the process, my goal is that we have come together and would have recommendations that we can then make to the FAA that we think clearly could alleviate the problems that we are seeing,” Miller said.

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“I can’t guarantee what the FAA does with that [information], but I think we need to be moving toward saying to the FAA, ‘These are changes that we think you need to consider in order address the noise issues in Sherman Oaks, Studio City and all other areas,’” he added.

Hollywood Burbank officials have tried multiple times to create a dialogue with other decision-makers, but all plans for discussions have fallen through.

They were close to setting up a roundtable discussion with the FAA, airline representatives and the community, but the federal agency decided to withdraw at the last moment.

Additionally, Hollywood Burbank officials have tried to set up meetings with representatives from the Los Angeles World Airports, which operates Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, but they declined to participate, Miller said.

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The issue at hand has been the prevalence of flights departing from Hollywood Burbank from the south making their northbound turns over the affected San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

Last October, a study by consulting firm Landrum & Brown confirmed that flights leaving the airport were making northbound turns over Studio City in the past two years rather than over the 101 Freeway. The departing flights were also found to be leaving the airport at lower altitudes than before.

While some residents firmly believe the flight path changes are due to the implementation of the Southern California Metroplex of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, some airport officials and authority commissioners aren’t completely sold on that idea.

NextGen is a satellite-based navigation system the FAA has been rolling out across the country as a way to improve time and fuel efficiency for aircraft.

The system made its debut in Southern California in March 2017 and, soon after, several residents started noticing a shift in flight patterns.

Miller said on Monday that it was his understanding that the FAA did not implement NextGen at Hollywood Burbank Airport and that the root cause of the noise issues is still unknown.

The Landrum & Brown report noted that, while the flight paths have changed due to NextGen, the satellite-based system could not be definitively blamed for the frequency of flights over the L.A. neighborhoods, the increase in noise or the lower departure altitudes.

Authority member Ross Selvidge, representing Pasadena, said he was not convinced that NextGen has been the cause of all of the issues but agreed the noise problem in Studio City and neighboring areas is real.

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“I couldn’t tell if [the aircraft] was coming from the south or the north. The echo effect is that significant,” Selvidge said as he recounted a visit to a Studio City resident’s house one morning.

A majority of the people who attended the authority’s meeting on Monday spoke about their frustrations for the past two years.

Sherman Oaks resident Michael Fields said he moved into his house three years ago and loved the quiet, peaceful neighborhood.

That changed after the departing flights started flying overhead, which Fields said disrupted all of the wildlife around his house and his peace and quiet.

“The owls are all gone. I haven’t heard from any coyotes in nine months, and most of the red-tailed hawks have disappeared except for one pair,” he said.

What he and many others would like to see is for aircraft to go back to using the old flight paths, so flights would turn north of the 101 Freeway.

While many pleaded with authority members to get the airlines to stop sending planes over their neighborhoods, Glendale City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, who is the authority’s president, reminded the public that the airport cannot direct or require the airlines to change their flight paths and that those decisions are up to the FAA.

Also at the meeting, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, whose district includes Studio City, told the authority that the flight path changes have negatively impacted his constituents and that they need relief soon.

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“I ask that you continue to put the most vigorous pressure possible on the FAA to ensure the implementation of dispersal headings, other lateral track variations or modified takeoff procedures immediately to address community noise concerns,” he said.

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