A draft report from the Federal Aviation Administration has bared the long-standing safety issue of Bob Hope Airport’s passenger terminal and its proximity to the runway.
Federal aviation officials have long held that the terminal is too close to the runway, a finding that in 1986 prompted the agency to prohibit planes from taking off to the east. An airport spokesman said planes taking off to the west are safely airborne well before they near the terminal.
But the latest iteration of the proximity issue came after an incident in Aprilin which two planes flew dangerously close to each other above the airfield.
The study is unrelated to that incident, which the FAA determined an air traffic controller error caused. But airport spokesman Victor Gill said the inquiry into runway safety grew out of concerns of FAA inspectors who were at the airport for the probe into the April incident.
In a draft report delivered to airport officials, the agency is seeking several safety upgrades at the airport while rehashing the controversial option of relocating the airport terminal so it is farther from the runways. The report determined that “the airport passenger terminal location presents significant risks and compromises airport design safety standards.”
Officials with the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority say the airport is making the modest adjustments sought by the FAA, including relocation of a weather sensor near runways, and working with a private-property owner to remove a nearby windmill. They will bolster so-called blast walls that redirect exhaust from jet aircraft.
But Gill said the concerns about the location of the terminal are nearly as old as the airport authority and cannot quickly be resolved.
“Over the decades, there has been no accident or incident causing significant danger to any passengers or personnel at the terminal,” Gill said.
Over the years, several courtroom clashes and a decision by the Burbank City Council have limited options for moving the terminal farther from runways.
In 2000, Burbank voters passed Measure B, requiring the airport to get voter approval before moving the terminal or expanding the airport. In a separate 2005 agreement with the city, Gill said the airport promised not to push for enlarging or moving the terminal until at least 2012, while the city agreed to allow general aviation companies to operate along the northern edge of the airfield.
Gill said the FAA has long expressed concern about the proximity of planes on the east-west runway to the terminal.
On Friday, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said that the draft plan was not final, and that the agency doesn’t have a specific timeframe for addressing its concerns.
“We believe the operations at Burbank are safe considering the special operating procedures in effect,” Gregor said. “However, in view of the recent Runway Safety Action Team visit to Burbank, it may be appropriate to review the current Burbank operations. That review may help identify additional measures that could enhance the level of safety at the airport.”
FOR THE RECORD: This amends an earlier version that incorrectly identified the April incident as a near crash.