Runway safety program launched

Paul Clinton

AIRPORT DISTRICT -- Facing mounting pressure to increase safety on its

eastern runway, Burbank Airport officials have unveiled a $25-million

plan that includes relocation of two parking lots, a soft concrete

"arrestor bed" and several land purchases.

The Federal Aviation Administration insisted the airport increase

safety following the March crash of a Southwest Airlines jet that skidded

off the runway and on to Hollywood Way.

On Monday, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority's

nine-member commission unanimously approved the enhancements.

"We've been taking a close look at options to enhance overall safety

on the east end of the runway ever since the Southwest incident,"

authority President Carl Meseck said in a statement. "This program will

stop aircraft and eliminate undesirable land uses in the path of the

runway or off to the side."

The airport authority would use most of the money to buy the gas

station, dry cleaner and restaurant in the path of the runway. The

airport submitted an application to Burbank to acquire the approximately

4.75 acres.

The gas station was put in the limelight during the Southwest crash,

due to the plane's close proximity to it after it crashed through the

airport's perimeter fence.

The airport also submitted applications to Burbank to relocate parking

lots A and B. The airport would move the 10.3 acres of parking further

north onto land held in trust pending Burbank's approval of the plan.

The airport will also install a bed of paving blocks known as the

Engineered Material Arresting System, or EMAS. The bed is capable of

stopping a Boeing 737 traveling as fast as 50 knots, between 55 and 60

mph.

EMAS has been used at other airports, including John F. Kennedy

International Airport in Queens, N.Y. The JFK EMAS system -- a

590-foot-long, 150-foot-wide bed -- was the first of its kind in North

America, according to the airport's Web site.

The EMAS system at Burbank would cost about $5.8 million.

The authority will fund the safety proposal largely through the use of

federal grant money for which the authority still must apply. If the

application is accepted, the FAA would chip in 80% of the total bill. The

authority would pick up the 20% balance.

City officials, led by Burbank's airport attorney, Peter Kirsch,

lauded the proposal.

"Anything that promotes safety at this runway is favorable," Kirsch

said.

Airport critics also said the safety measures would go a long way

toward creating a more user-friendly atmosphere at the airport.

"They should have done that years ago," former Councilman Ted McConkey

said. "Clearly that [situation] has always represented a danger."

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