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?
DAVID M. SIMMONS
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
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