Home>Articles>Closure of California Airports Leading to Increased Jet Traffic, Noise Pollution Issues at Others

The Van Nuys and Burbank Airport Joint Task Force. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

Closure of California Airports Leading to Increased Jet Traffic, Noise Pollution Issues at Others

‘This is a huge problem not only for Los Angeles, but the entire state; those planes need somewhere to go’

By Evan Symon, December 5, 2019 7:04 am

At a Burbank and Van Nuys Airport Joint Task Force meeting held Wednesday in Burbank, the FAA, local governments, and angered local citizens held a largely wild meeting, primarily about the growing noise and jet traffic of local airports.

Anger in Burbank

The meeting began with shouts from dozens of local citizens wanting to move away noisy airplane routes holding up signs saying “LIE” and “FIX IT NOW”. The FAA gave a presentation, paused several times because of citizens shouting at those on stage, and showed a large increase of traffic going into Burbank and Van Nuys.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz grilled FAA members. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

“Balancing demand for aviation needs while also meeting noise levels and keeping everyone safe is a complex task,” said FAA District Manager John Nelson. “In order to mitigate noise the FAA needs to be involved.”

The FAA members were then questioned by a panel including Los Angeles Council members Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, as well as Senator Kamala Harris’ representative Brent Robinson.

“You didn’t answer any of our questions,” said Councilman Koretz. “You said you’re careful about modifying flight paths, but you took one that wasn’t broken and ‘fixed’ it. And you destroyed the quality of life for people and negatively impacted wildlife.

“Impacts have been dramatic. I’ve seen them and I’ve heard them. Some constituents I take calls from can’t go two minutes without their home sounding like it has an airplane in it. Families have moved away from the flight path. Some have split up.”

“Why change without consideration to people under flight paths? Why not stop and go back to the original flight path?”

The FAA is grilled

The FAA responded that they haven’t been changed, and that to move a flight path would require a lot of work, such as the environmental impact that they are currently working on for the path at the FAA’s request.

Citizens respond to testimony at the Joint Task Force meeting in Burbank. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

Robinson, Senator Harris’ representative, asked why request from the Senator about FAA plans and documents on the area were never answered and why procedures to change things around the airport took so much time before finally asking for FAA Director Stephen Dickson to personally come a visit.

As the meeting continued, more and more members of the task force grilled the FAA about the noise issues and what could be done, as well as more presentations from pilots and others. All the while local citizens in the audience showed their frustration verbally.

“We’ve had it,” said Anne Lee Michaels, an Encino resident clutching a ‘LIE’ sign. “Even five years ago you would see planes, but it was generally not bad. Now it’s like living in an airport. The FAA is up there lying that they ‘have plans’ and ‘know what we’re going through’, but it’s garbage. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

However the root of the problem wasn’t even addressed during the meeting.

The Closing of Santa Monica Airport and subsequent problems

“It’s all because they closed Santa Monica Airport,” said former air traffic controller Randolph Taylor. “Unless there’s some action soon, Santa Monica is set to close it ten years. But they had to move jet traffic. Some went to Hawthorne, some went to Van Nuys. And that is what people are hearing. All of that increased jet traffic. The FAA didn’t change anything to screw anyone. It’s just that those planes had to go somewhere.

Chart showing increased traffic over Burbank and Van Nuys due to diverted jets from Santa Monica. (Evan Symon for California Globe)

“If they are looking for people to blame, honestly, blame the people of Santa Monica. And if you’re looking for a solution, don’t close down Santa Monica.

“And this isn’t the only possible case.

“There are people rallying to close Moffett Field outside of San Francisco, and reduce traffic at San Jose because of height restrictions. But those planes need somewhere to go. It’s not commercial traffic, sure, but it’s private traffic that needs to operate. Student pilots, company jets so they don’t tie up major airports, you have jets that are medical for emergencies; there’s just so much.

“So if they reduce flights, how do they choose who lands? Will it be who will pay the most for landing fees? Is it first come first serve?

“And this is a huge problem not only for LA but the entire state. Santa Monica most likely closing is endeavoring more citizens who hate noise pollution and lowered property values to take action.

“It’s getting worse because residents don’t like living near an airport. It’s like living next to a highway. You expect cars there. But you’re not going to get CalTrans to move I-5.”

Noise, property values, and safety

At the end of the meeting, many in the audience were angered even further by the lack of public comment, with some screaming “Brown Act!” Nothing was resolved besides some questions being answered, with some plans on flight route changes being mentioned. When asked about safety, many walking out mentioned noise reduction being more important, with one Sherman Oaks resident saying “I don’t want this to lessen the value of my house. It’s a house, not a terminal.”

“It’s easy to blame something like that,” Taylor said. “But the problem is the city of Santa Monica screwing everyone else over. Not the FAA up there who is just trying to keep everyone safe.”

Evan Symon
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