Saturday, March 8, 2008
Airport planning on curfew
Authority will present a draft of study that would impose limits on flights from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
By Jeremy Oberstein
The Burbank (CA) Leader
BURBANK – Capping off years of debate, the tri-cities’ governing board of Bob Hope Airport announced it will present a plan to implement a mandatory curfew that would halt all late-night and early-morning flights at the airport, officials said. But its passage could be in doubt if the Federal Aviation Administration grounds the plan. The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority will present a draft of the Part 161 Study, which would impose a mandatory curfew on all flights from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., to the public at its March 17 meeting, and conduct an initial study session, airport spokesman Victor Gill said. The study will then be subject to a 45-day comment period, a public workshop and public hearing, for which dates have not been set. Then it will then undergo the FAA approval process, Gill said.
News that the study will move forward comes more than two months after an administrative law judge allowed the airport to operate outside of state-mandated noise restrictions while it worked to reduce the noise burden for residents in the area. It also comes nearly two months after the Burbank City Council blessed the ruling after years of pressuring the authority to pass the noise restriction.
“We’ve been calling for this for years and years and sat in meetings and looked at the committees and said ‘we have to do this,'” Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos said. “Did the council push the authority? I believe so. But it helped that the judge supported our position and acknowledged the value of moving in that direction.”
The curfew would affect an average of 36 flights every night and would force their aeronautical operations to shift to surrounding airports during the curfew, Gill said.
Van Nuys Airport could receive 16 flights, Ontario International Airport 13 flights, and Los Angeles International Airport might get three flights if the curfew is passed, he said.
Penalties for breaking the curfew would range from about $3,600 for first-time violators to twice and three times that amount for airlines that fly outside of the restriction two or three times, respectively, in a 12-month period, Gill said.
The fourth violation in a year would result in a fine of nearly $15,000 and a suspension or outright ban of flying into or out of the airport, he said.
Residents have called for the curfew since the airport authority was established in 1978, and the authority started working on the study in 2000, Gill said.
The study has been amended, vetted and refined through nearly a decade’s worth of edits and at a cost to the airport of about $6 million to compile the study, he said.
Residents near the airport praised the authority’s decision to move forward, saying the curfew would provide a much-needed ban against private and business planes that now roam the night and early-morning skies.
“The real problems come from private flights,” said Stan Hyman, who lives about three miles from the airport.
“We’ve been hoping for this forever.”
But before those flights can be eliminated, the FAA has to approve the curfew, which some say could be an uphill battle.
In a 2004 letter from the FAA, Victoria Catlett, an official in the office of airport planning and programming, said the benefits of a curfew would not be worth the cost to canceled flights.
The letter also called into question the point of a mandatory curfew, as the voluntary curfew has a compliance rate of about 97%.
Airport officials contested the FAA’s position that the cost of the curfew would outweigh the benefits.
The cost to airlines, passengers, cargo carriers and general aviation could total $55 million for the 10-year length of the curfew from canceled flights, while savings that would occur by a reduced need for residential acoustical treatment programs near the airport with a curfew in place would amount to $67 million for the same period, Gill said.
The mandatory curfew would exempt certain flights for certain medical emergencies and in some cases where inclement weather delays flights, Gill said.
“This would be the first application to the FAA for a [mandatory curfew] by any U.S. airport since Congress passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, which barred airport imposition of new access restrictions unless approved by the FAA,” he said. “This is groundbreaking territory. We know we have an uphill battle, but the deal is to fight the fight and go as far as we can.”
Other airports, such as Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, have mandatory curfews in that they impose a restriction on flying from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., but no airport has ever asked for a curfew after 1990 for quieter, stage 3 planes, Gill said.
“Prior to the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, the FAA was silent on curfews,” he said.
“It’s hard to gauge what the FAA is thinking because no airport has ever started and finished a 161 study.”