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.