Flights leaving Hollywood Burbank Airport from the south have been more frequently making their turns north over Studio City and Sherman Oaks since the implementation of the Southern California Metroplex of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, it was confirmed this week.
During a special meeting Thursday night of the operations and development committee of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, more than 100 residents representing Burbank, Studio City and beyond packed into the Buena Vista branch library to hear from officials with the Landrum & Brown consulting firm, which studied the issue.
Christian Valdes, a managing consultant for the firm said it looked at 10 years’ worth of data, including the number of flights, flight paths and concentration of flights.
NextGen started rolling out at Hollywood Burbank in March 2017, and soon after area residents began noticing changes.
Valdes said that before NextGen was implemented in the region, flights would depart from the southern portion of Hollywood Burbank and turn northbound on the north side of the 101 Freeway. The study determined that, since the implementation, planes leaving the airport have frequently been flying at a lower altitude through Studio City and Sherman Oaks before making their northbound turns.
The report determined that in 2017, 31,825 departures made their northbound turns south of the 101 Freeway while 2,747 pivoted north of the freeway. In the previous year, 25,933 departing flights turned south of the freeway and 5,614 made the turn north of it.
Burbank resident Audrey Ford, who for about 18 months has been monitoring the departure changes at Hollywood Burbank, said the reports validate the suspicions she and others had about NextGen.
“The things that we’re asking for are simple,” she said. “We want the path to go back to where it was and we want [the airplanes] higher in the sky.”
Craig Radow, a member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council, told officials that planes flying out of the airport have become more than a nuisance.
“The frequency, the altitude, the noise and sudden impact from the airplanes of Burbank Airport is very troubling,” he said. “Quality of life is quickly deteriorating in the neighborhood, with stakeholders confused and frustrated by this highly unusual flight path now directly overhead of densely residential areas.”
Although several changes became noticeable since the implementation of the SoCal Metroplex, the only issue definitively tied to the new system was the increase in flights over the L.A. neighborhoods, according to a 50-page report from Landrum & Brown.
Other impacts studied — the number and frequency in flights from Hollywood Burbank, noise levels and departure altitudes — could be attributed to any of a number of factors, including NextGen, changes in temperature and an improving market, according to the report.
NextGen metroplexes have been rolling out in regions across the country as a way to increase time and fuel efficiency for aircraft, and to make departures and arrival safer. However, the new satellite-based navigation system has had its issues.
In 2015, more than 147,000 complaints were filed with San Francisco International Airport between the months of March and August after the Northern California Metroplex was implemented. During the same months in 2014, that airport received more than 5,000 complaints, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In Orange County, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach sued the FAA in 2016 over the accuracy of its environmental assessment of NextGen in the region, according to the Daily Pilot.
Christine Kim, a Sherman Oaks resident and a member of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., pressured officials to pursue a lawsuit of their own to try and revert the flight paths back to what they were before the new system.
She and other Sherman Oaks and Studio City residents were also at Thursday’s meeting to voice their disapproval of the FAA’s proposed change to the departure paths at Hollywood Burbank, which would set waypoints in those neighborhoods.
“The Los Angeles City Council and the mayor’s office must immediately pass a resolution or take necessary steps to green light the city of L.A. suing the FAA,” Kim said. “Implementation of the new or amended flight paths that impact the Santa Monica Mountains are major actions with significant environmental effects that require a full environmental impact [study].”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), whose district covers a majority of the San Fernando Valley, said the airport could post signs at the gates indicating which airlines are helping abate the noise from their takeoffs and identifying the airlines that are contributing to the noise.
“It’s time for the airlines to understand that their relationship with the airport is dependent upon how they treat the community,” he said.