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Rep. Rohrabacher calls on JetBlue to retrofit planes to cut ‘screeching noise’ over Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach residents have complained in the past year about an increase in airplane noise linked to Long Beach Airport. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has asked JetBlue to retrofit its Airbus A320 planes to help minimize noise on their approach to Long Beach.
(File Photo / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is calling on JetBlue to retrofit some of its planes to help minimize noise that some Huntington Beach residents say has disrupted their quality of life as the aircraft approach Long Beach Airport.

In an April 10 letter to JetBlue’s president and chief executive, Robin Hayes, Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) urged the airline to retrofit its Airbus A320 planes and have them fly at the highest altitudes possible when approaching the airport because some of the congressman’s constituents have complained that the jets “create a screeching noise on final approach.”

In his letter, Rohrabacher recommended that the airline fix the problem by modifying the engines with vortex generators, known as air deflectors, a project he said is done through regular maintenance.

Lufthansa, United, Air France and British Airways have retrofitted their jets with the generators, said Rohrabacher, whose 48th Congressional District includes Huntington Beach.


Transition to the newer technology, he wrote, would help cut noise levels substantially.

JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart said Thursday that the airline received the letter and is reviewing it.

Huntington Beach residents have increasingly complained about airline noise in the past year, since the Federal Aviation Administration implemented flight path alterations as part of its Southern California Metroplex project covering the region’s airports, including Long Beach and Orange County’s John Wayne Airport. The agency said the changes would shore up inefficiencies, save fuel and reduce carbon emissions and flight delays.

However, the complaints prompted the City Council in January to unanimously approve a task force called the Air Traffic Noise Working Group to tackle the issue.


Council members Patrick Brenden and Barbara Delgleize proposed the panel as a way to discuss potential solutions to air traffic noise, establish a working relationship with federal aviation and local airport officials, assess opportunities for lawsuits and host community meetings.

Delgleize said Thursday that Rohrabacher’s letter is a step in the right direction that hopefully will create a conversation between the airline and the community.

“At the end of the day, we want higher and quieter,” Delgleize said. ”We’ve had planes fly through Huntington Beach in the past and it wasn’t an issue. As we get further into this, we’ll ask the congressman to reach out to other airlines.”

Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubbs said the congressman made the request only of JetBlue — a major carrier at Long Beach Airport — because, as he understands it, of all the airlines at Long Beach, only JetBlue has not fixed the problem.

Longtime Huntington Beach resident Michael Bourgeault, who is on the city panel, created the website to document the group’s progress and inform residents about the issue.

“There is a substantial difference from Southwest [Airlines] planes into Long Beach than JetBlue,” said Bourgeault, who was pleased with Rohrabacher’s letter but said he doubts the airline would oblige. “They sound like they’re an incoming missile.”

Bourgeault said the task force is planning a town hall meeting for the near future where residents can learn more about the group’s efforts.

Mayor Mike Posey this month asked county and federal representatives to address aviation noise related to the FAA’s regional air traffic system.


In an April 2 letter to Rohrabacher, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel and FAA Regional Administrator Dennis Roberts, Posey described Huntington Beach as an “epicenter” for “heavily concentrated new landing and flyover patterns.”

“The combined result is virtually constant aircraft noise over significant swaths of our city, beginning as early as 5:30 a.m. and continuing past 11:30 p.m.,” Posey wrote.

Residents in nearby cities also are unhappy with the new takeoff and landing patterns. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach sued the FAA over the system in 2016, saying the project’s environmental review, which determined there would be no significant effects, was inadequate.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in September that more than two dozen air routes have historically passed over Huntington Beach. He said the environmental findings “will not be revisited.”

Twitter: @vegapriscella