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Community better off with existing airport terminal

On the face of it, the letter from David M. Simmons regarding a new

terminal building at the airport seems pretty reasonable. But it

isn’t. First, Mr. Simmons states that the FAA has had a long-standing

request for relocation of the terminal. To my knowledge, the FAA has


never requested that the terminal be relocated. Rather, the FAA has

simply stated that if the terminal is moved that it will have to

comply with newer requirements regarding the distance from the

runways to the building.


Mr. Simmons implies that safety at the airport would be

significantly enhanced if the terminal were relocated. He is right.

One aspect of safety would be enhanced. Others, though, would be

worsened by increasing the number of flights. Let’s look at some of

the recent mishaps at the airport: Three to four years ago an Alaska

Airlines jet had to return to the airport on one engine due to a bird

being sucked into the other engine. I’m sure that I’ m not the only

one to notice that we seem to have a lot more crows flying around


Burbank than in the past. They sometimes fly in flocks and at pretty

high altitudes. A new terminal will not prevent a similar -- or worse

-- event from occurring.

Virtually everyone remembers the Southwest 737 that ended up on

Hollywood Way. This was not the first plane to do so. A Lear Jet in

1979 and a Cessna Citation in 1980 met similar fates, according to

personal communication from airport Executive Director Dios Marreo.

The underlying fact regarding the airport is that it was built in


1930, long before the jet age. The runways are barely long enough for

today’s planes, and it is bordered on all four sides by residences.

At best, the location of the airport is marginally suitable for a

small airport. It is certainly not a suitable location for a large


How large could the airport become? None other than current

Airport Authority President Charlie Lombardo has publicly stated that

the existing runways have the capacity for more than 19 million

annual passengers. This would be about a four-fold increase over

today’s levels. To me, anyone not frightened by the possibility of a

four-fold increase in passengers with the attendant safety risk,

increases in noise, traffic, and pollution has been so blinded by the

almighty dollar that they are without hope.

Mr. Simmons makes a plea for a “final drive to find a mutually

acceptable solution to the terminal relocation project.” First, if it

were only a “relocation” that is being proposed there would not be

much opposition. Unfortunately, what is being proposed is a massive

expansion of the size of the existing terminal. What will it take to

reach a mutually acceptable solution? Good faith on the part of the

airport and the Burbank City Council. Thus far we have not even seen

an inkling of good faith on the part of either of these bodies.

Consider this: Under the pretext of national security, the

Authority and the council recently more than doubled the space in

Concourse A, the Southwest concourse. The Transportation Security

Administration had called for only minimal increases in space for

their needs. This typical bad faith maneuver underscores that neither

the Authority nor the Burbank Council can be trusted. Time will tell

how much of an increase in passengers and flights we will see due to

the increase in size of Concourse A.

A couple of facts to consider regarding the size of any new

terminal building: First, other than prior to the first departure in

the morning there are never more than five planes at the terminal.

So, an enlarged 14-gate terminal would be more than adequate to

greatly increase traffic at the airport.

Over the summer of 2002 the PERC Committee (Plan Evaluation and

Review Committee) labored long and hard to come up with a reasonable

solution. In their collective wisdom, after listening to virtually

everyone with any knowledge of any aspect of airport issues, PERC

deemed that any new terminal would have to be no more than 14 gates

and, that it would be better to start off with 12 gates and then

allow expansion to 14 only if certain conditions were met.

We have never been offered a 14-gate terminal. Under the Framework

for Settlement authored by Councilman Golonski, the shell of the new

terminal building would have been well over twice the size of the

existing terminal and have the capacity for 19 gates. It was more

than interesting to watch former City Manager Bud Ovrom tap dance

around the 19-gate issue when he spoke to the PERC members. As much

as he wanted to avoid the issue, the underlying facts presented in

the council’s brochure clearly showed that the building was

eventually to be used for 19 gates.

Nineteen gates would probably not be enough to quadruple the

number of passengers up to the previously cited runway capacity

levels. But, 27 gates would be more than adequate to do so. The

iteration of the terminal building outlined in the framework was a

U-shaped structure in which the Airport Authority could easily add on

an L-shaped wing containing eight more gates.

Does anyone doubt that that the airport has enough land to build a

27-gate terminal? Consider this: the plot for the new terminal

building is 55 acres. Contrast these 55 acres to the Media Center

Mall. By my recollection, the entire mall area containing the actual

mall, Ikea, Virgin Records, and all of the other shops and

restaurants in between, sit on just over 40 acres.

If the Mall and all of other stores are on only a little over 40

acres, imagine what the airport can build on 55 acres. Scary, isn’t

it? If the airport and council really want to show good faith they

could sell off any land over and above what is needed for a true

14-gate terminal. Unless and until this is done I believe that the

community is better off with the existing terminal than we are living

with the specter of a 27-gate terminal hanging over us. It is time

for the Airport Authority to either fish or cut bait. They are

claiming that all they want is 14 gates. If that is so, show good

faith by selling off the excess land.

Ron Vanderford