Residents skeptical about FAA’s proposed departure changes out of Hollywood Burbank Airport


Many people who attended the Federal Aviation Administration’s public workshop on Wednesday were not convinced that proposed flight-departure changes out of Hollywood Burbank Airport will help reduce aircraft noise.

Officials with the aviation agency spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Pickwick Gardens conference center in Burbank explaining to residents mainly from Studio City and Sherman Oaks how the proposed departures could curb noise created by planes flying over their neighborhoods.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, said the agency is planning to implement new waypoints, a term used for a point or place on a travel route, that would help provide planes departing northward from Hollywood Burbank a better route to get them to their destinations.

He said it’s proposed that aircraft flying out of Burbank from the south would fly toward a waypoint called JAYTE, which is just over the flat-land portion of Studio City, and reach that point at or above 2,400 feet.

Gregor said the waypoint would be programed into the aircraft’s flight-management system and would automatically route the plane to that point.

Once arriving at JAYTE, air traffic controllers would step in and tell pilots to immediately turn their planes to the north, toward one of two other waypoints, OROSZ or SLAPP, depending on where the flight is headed.

“The purpose of those amendments is to tighten up the initial right turn the aircraft make after departing,” Gregor said.

However, many of the more than 70 people who attended the workshop Wednesday did not accept the FAA’s reasoning for changing the departure procedures at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

Several Studio City residents, including Suellen Wagner, expressed concerns. Wagner said the proposed changes would concentrate the aircraft noise over her neighborhood.

A member of a grassroots group called Studio City for Quiet Skies, Wagner said her neighborhood and Sherman Oaks have been experiencing a dramatic increase in aircraft noise since March 2017, when the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, was implemented in Southern California.

The satellite-based system was put into place to make flights more efficient and safer, but Wagner said all it has done is ruin her peace and quiet.

Residents of Studio City and Sherman Oaks are not alone. In 2015, thousands of complaints were filed with San Francisco International Airport after NextGen was implemented.

Additionally, the cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach filed a lawsuit against the FAA in 2016 over the accuracy of the environmental reports on NextGen in their region.

“This is FAA’s dog and pony show,” Wagner said. “This is them trying to convince us that they’re doing something good for us, when, in truth, all that NextGen has done all across the country is create billions of dollars of extra profit for the airlines and create misery under the path in every place they’ve gone.”

Studio City resident Brad Schreiber echoed Wagner’s sentiments, adding that litigation will be the next step if the FAA continues to push for the proposed local departure changes.

“I know that the FAA will do nothing unless they are sued,” Schreiber said. “They have to be sued and come to the table.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) was also in attendance on Wednesday, saying that the FAA needs to conduct a thorough environmental study before even considering implementing the proposed departure procedures.

He added that Hollywood Burbank should have a noise-abatement system similar to what is in place at John Wayne Airport.

Gregor said there is no refuting the fact that flights out of Hollywood Burbank have drifted farther south over the two Los Angeles neighborhoods. However, he said the changes are not due to NextGen, but rather an increase in flight activity at the airport.

Comparing January 2016 to August 2018, Gregor said air-carrier operations have gone up from 3,379 flights to 4,722 flights, about a 40% hike.

Additionally, factors such as warmer temperatures and heavier loads have contributed to planes gaining altitude at a slower rate.

Last month, however, consulting firm Landrum & Brown gave a report during a special meeting of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority verifying that planes were, indeed, making their turns north more frequently over Studio City and Sherman Oaks.

Firm officials added that, although there is a connection between the southward shift and NextGen, it could not be definitely proven that the new system is the sole cause.

Twitter: @acocarpio