Patt Morrison: Burbank airport should change its name

It’s like your grandmother wanting to get an R-rated glamor-shot makeover.

Not only do you definitely not want to see her all tarted up in a push-up bra and marabou-trimmed satin mules, you have to run out of the room hollering over the sound of her voice whenever she so much as mentions it.

Same thing, aviation-wise, when it comes to Burbank airport, since 2003 called Bob Hope Airport. Before that it was the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, the neighborhood airport for the 818 area code and parts of the 626 and 323.

Like your granny, it’s 80-ish years old, and also like your granny, it has sacrificed uber-modernity for the sake of comfort and shabby charm, and that’s the way we’ve liked it.

At the Burbank airport, you don’t expect first-class lounges with massages and lattes; you don’t look for caviar snacks orGucci boutiques. And you’d be shocked to the core if Burbank suddenly, like your grandma’s glam shot, tried to turn into one of “those airports.”

So it was with trepidation that I heard the news that the airport gods are giving serious consideration to a Burbank airport makeover, with a bigger terminal, one that’s farther from the runway, as the FAA specifies. Burbank might be called on to vote on this by summer 2015.

Long before then — next Tuesday evening, as a matter of fact — everyone, and not just Burbank voters, can speak up about anything that might be done to or at the airport, at a town hall at Burbank City Hall.

I think people should show up in their jammies, with travel mugs of coffee. Because that’s what is at stake here: your friendly local airport, the one you can drive right up to in your PJs with your hair still wet and dump your passenger at curbside, or if you’re flying yourself, just schlep across a few yards of asphalt from the garage to the terminal.  

The Burbank airport is practically home, at least homey, as airports go. Going to LAX is like being forced to appear at KGB headquarters, a grim, dispiriting, soul-grinding plunge into an unsettling place that is simultaneously rigid and chaotic. Even if you get out of it OK, you’re never the same.

Happily, the new Burbank terminal would still have only 14 gates, which keeps the scale of the place more or less intact.

There’s one issue the makeover masters didn’t raise, and they definitely should.

It’s time to rename the place.

Bob Hope was a nice man, grateful to his adopted country, devoted to performing for troops in the USO — but not, I think, the right namesake for an airport. He did live in the ‘hood, Toluca Lake, but so did Valleyites Bing Crosby and Clark Gable and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and nobody was pushing to change the name to Tarzan Airfield or Der Bingle Airport.

The 1979 naming of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, in the year Wayne died, was a clear bid for national billing by a parochial airport. It was the same with Bob Hope Airport. The name change had been proposed in 1985, but it didn’t pass until 2003, right after Hope died.

Ten years later, travelers are still saddled with a sentimental impulse, an airport named for a man who was famous to his generation but who may now be better known for the airport than for his movie or charity work. I don’t know anyone who uses it who calls it “Bob Hope” or “the Hope” airport. And Burbank/the Valley aren’t parochial anymore.

So, as long as the airport is in redo mode, here’s a perfect new name. It honors someone who became a local, who made a tremendous contribution to aviation, someone whose statue already stands in an airport hallway, someone whose name is world renowned and is still in the news long after she’s died. It’s a forehead-smackingly obvious choice:

Amelia Earhart.

And ladies and gentlemen of the airport authority, I’ll donate the first gallon of paint for the new name. In sky-blue.

Patt Morrison is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times


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