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FAA letter equals public safety threat...

FAA letter equals public safety threat

On occasion, an article will appear in the local press, the

subject of which strikes a note of astonishment in the mind of the



In that context, I was very surprised to read a front-page article

in a recent edition of the Leader under the headline: “FAA puts

terminal decision in local hands.”

In essence, the article reported on the contents of a letter that


Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Marion C. Blakey had

written to Chris Holden, the president of the Airport Authority. Her

letter was a response to a letter he had written her, advising her in

regard to the authority about to give up plans for the construction

of a new terminal building.

As expected, Blakey’s initial comments reaffirmed FAA policy --

that it was entirely a matter of local responsibility for the

involved parties to mutually agree on plans for a new terminal


building, including its location, size and ultimate operating

capacity. She also added it was not in the realm of the FAA control

if such developmental plans were totally abandoned. I was surprised

by that statement, but totally unprepared for what followed.

While not quoting her exact words, she then stated that by virtue

of current operating procedures in effect at the airport, coupled

with the many years of flight operations without a severe happening,

the existing terminal building is safe in its current location.


Blakey’s decision reverses a longstanding FAA position that due

diligence be exercised by all concerned parties in the development of

a plan to relocate the terminal from its close proximity to runways.

How she arrived at such a decision defies fact. There is no

question the terminal complex is in violation of FAA runway setback

rules. And there is no question the chance of a major accident

exists. It stands to reason that no amount of well- thought-out

operating procedures, or the many years of accident-free flight

operations, can prevent an out-of-control aircraft from careening off

the runway following a slight deviation in direction from the center


There might be those among us, including public officials, who

will accept the new FAA position as a politically welcomed solution

to the vexing airport problem, which has haunted City Hall for many

years. To those, it presents an escape from more heated debates on

airport planning issues and a lessening of angry citizen


I have no doubt that Blakey is a most competent individual, and

that expressions of policy, noted in her letter, represent a sincere

and honest effort to lessen tensions and add new considerations to

the local airport problems. Despite this turn of events, I strongly

urge that the Airport Authority and the three sponsoring cities not

to abandon plans to relocate the terminal but instead agree to tackle

the tough decisions with renewed vigor.

We have “circled the wagons” in the same spot for more than 24

years. Meanwhile, those elusive solutions are out there, hidden away

from the current view, awaiting some aggressive action on our part.

Who will fire the first shot?



Airport terminal is a fixer-upper

Regardless of what reasons Don Elsmore and others give about not

having a new airport terminal, I disagree with them.

Mr. Elsmore says that PERC, the FAA, the airlines and the voters

don’t see the need for a new terminal, but the Burbank City Council

is in favor of it.

When a person buys a house or a businessman buys a commercial

building, they generally remodel it or “fix it up.” Why shouldn’t we

at least do that with the current terminal?

Of course, the reason is we don’t get any guarantees regarding a

curfew or a restriction on the number of gates.

But supposedly the results of the Part 161 study, which is rarely

mentioned, might help us in that regard. If the consultants favor our

point of view, maybe the FAA will give the green light on the

improvements. Then the voters will have no reason not to vote for it.

The biggest problem might be politics. Will the new FAA chief, who

was appointed by President Bush, be in favor of controls if the 161

study determines that they are feasible?

Is there any point in not building a new terminal, considering the

current one was built in the 1930s? A new one would be in a safer

location and would have the advantage of being equipped with the

up-to-date technology. If we get the curfew and a limitation on the

number of gates, let’s go for it.

A new development recently occurred. The FAA has endorsed noise

limits at the John Wayne Airport. It will preserve the existing

nighttime curfews until 2015. However, the number of gates can

increase and the number of flights can increase, but only to a

certain extent.

So if Burbank hangs tough, we might have a new terminal with noise

and number-of-gate limits. But the city needs support from its