Wed, Feb

Valley Communities Upset! NextGen Departure Paths Too Noisy.


PERSPECTIVE--The lawsuit recently filed by City Attorney Mike Feuer against the FAA and supported by LA council members Paul Krekorian, David Ryu and Paul Koretz, all of whom are voting members of the Burbank Airport Noise Task Force, is demanding that all departure paths from Burbank return to pre-Next Generation flight tracks.

NextGen, as it is known, is a GPS-based system.  Its stated objective is to enhance safety, efficiency and reliability of the nation’s air travel network, with the emphasis on safety. 

Complaints concerning an increase in noise since the implementation of NextGen two years ago have been filed by communities south of the 101, many coming from the Ventura Boulevard corridor and up in the adjacent hills. However, analysis of flight tracks submitted to the panel seem to indicate that an increase in commercial flights (up 18% since 2017), rather than NextGen, may be the primary reason for the additional noise.

Graph derived from Burbank Airport FAA Tower operations count data.

Advocacy groups representing Studio City and Sherman Oaks (UpRoar LA and Studio City for Quiet Skies) have proposed solutions that call for all take-offs to hug the 101, then turn north over the heart of the Valley.  They want their neighborhoods to be free of the noise while North Hollywood, Valley Village, Van Nuys, Panorama City, Valley Glen and the northern segment of Sherman Oaks to absorb all of it.

The city council members on the task force have not once reached out to residents north of the 101 to describe what might be in store for them. It is safe to say that the vast majority of these northern residents are unaware of the hearings and what is at stake.

It hasn’t helped that the three Council Members and Mike Feuer are citing a vast number of complaints as the catalyst for the lawsuit. The truth is the complaints have been skewed by the use of an app, grossly overstating the number. The data below was derived from the linked Daily News article.

Anyone can sit on a couch all day and push a button whenever they think a bird, or a plane or Superman passes overhead.

However, after the task force meeting last night (1/15) Mr. Koretz was receptive about digging deeper into the numbers.  I respect his willingness to do so.  It is a task that is essential before placing reliance on the raw data.

While Krekorian, the Vice Chair of the task force, claims to want departures to spread out, he very publicly endorsed proposals from UproarLA and Studio City for Quiet Skies. Those proposals would send all departures north. Krekorian, along with Ryu, backed the two advocacy groups before the Noise Task Force hearings even started.

Unless they completely walk back from their statements, the task force should recuse the two from deliberations; they can hardly be perceived as unbiased.

When I confronted Krekorian in November about his failure to communicate with his constituents to the north (the largest part of his council district) he said, “Why?  They have you!”

Last time I checked, he is paid to represent his entire district, not just a chosen segment, one in which he happens to reside.

Sadly missing from the monthly meetings is technical information from pilots and Burbank tower controllers.  Only one commercial pilot has appeared so far.  His valuable insight was covered in my previous article in CityWatch. Much more testimony from true aviation professionals is needed in order to draw credible conclusions.

The old saying that “a little information is a dangerous thing” applies here. It is particularly relevant where public safety is involved.  That gap can be closed by enlisting a few commercial pilots and local controllers and have them analyze the communication process so critical in determining the departure paths and turning points. They are barking up the wrong tree by chasing down information from the FAA, not to mention wasting our money.

Burbank Airport is widely used by all Valley residents, from Mulholland Drive to the Angeles National Forest.  It is only fair that all residents have a say in any recommendations. All Neighborhood Councils with a stake in the outcome should be part of the hearings before the Task Force moves forward, even if it means starting from square one.

Focusing on one segment of the Valley at the expense of the densely populated neighborhoods north of the 101 is not representation.

And changes which could affect safety in the skies do not belong in the hands of local politicians whose judgment could be clouded by aspirations for higher office.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and the former President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].)