The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority announced March 9 that it formally concurs with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finding that full compliance with FAA runway safety area standards at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank by 2015 is not practicable.
According to a press release, “The FAA cited the fact that requiring fully compliant runway safety areas (RSAs) – RSA is a surface surrounding the runway that has been prepared for reducing the risk of damage to airplanes in the event of an undershoot, overshoot, or excursion from the runway – at Bob Hope Airport would introduce significant operational constraints, be financially and legally infeasible, would require acquisition of large amounts of private property beyond the boundary of the airport, and would require lowering of highways and railroads.”
It would seem that the FAA is applying a double standard in this situation and the way it deals with the issues at Los Angeles International Airport.
In a presentation to the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners at its meeting Aug. 9 on the Notice of Preparation by Los Angeles World Airports, the LAX regional transportation coordinator told the airport commissioners that they are studying proposed reconfiguration of LAX’s
northernmost runway by up to 400 feet north into Westchester and Playa del Rey or 652 feet west toward the Pacific Ocean. Reconfiguration of Lincoln Boulevard was also addressed.
The commissioners were told that moving the northernmost runway by 400 feet north would “best comply with the FAA’s current standard for all weather conditions.”
Of course, in all fairness, Bob Hope Airport isn’t as large as LAX, and isn’t seen as the major economic engine for the city of Los Angeles by business groups and Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce members.
The chamber seeks to bring more money to downtown businesses with increased air traffic coming into LAX and is looking for ground efficiency and greater throughput at LAX.
In a Jan. 18 article on the Los Angeles chamber’s Web site, “International Visitors Boost L.A. Economy,” the increase in tourism industry was said to have been 4.5 million foreign tourists visiting Los Angeles in 2010, spending more than $4.5 billion locally.
Several reasons were cited as improving the tourist flow to Los Angeles, and then, the chamber stated, “Locally, we can help by supporting LAX modernization. Key airport improvements are well underway including construction of a new international terminal, updated food and concession, and the upcoming consolidated rental car facility. However, consensus to fix the two northern runways is the missing ingredient.
“The runways on the north airfield must be rebuilt to accommodate the next generation of larger, cleaner and quieter aircraft like the Boeing 747 and 787 and the Airbus A380. The two 1960s-era runways are too close together to operate these large aircraft at a normal frequency.
“When one of these large international planes is on the runway, other flights have to wait longer to land or take off.”
Regarding the 1960s, the terminal taxiways are of that era and need to be fixed, some say.
In meeting after meeting local residents have vehemently opposed moving the northernmost runway closer into Westchester and Playa del Rey. Citing a further destruction of local businesses and homes yet again, these individuals have been branded by some as NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and chastised by these business interests for their “selfish” desire to keep their community intact.
The northside airfield has continued to demonstrate a high degree of safety in relation to the number of runway incursions.
Apparently, it works for the Bob Hope Airport. The airport authority has been asked to send a formal letter concurring with a draft FAA determination, to be published by the FAA later this year that it is not “practicable for Bob Hope Airport to comply with current FAA Runway Safety Area standards in the near future.”
The airport authority included in its letter to the FAA information sent to the group by Marion Blakey, the former FAA administrator. She wrote, “that operations at Bob Hope Airport can continue safely in the current configuration. Our longstanding support for the relocation of the terminal was based on our interest in bringing the airfield up to current design standards and providing the highest level of safety. However, given the special operating procedure in effect for the airport and the long history of operations with the terminal, we believe that operations in the present location can continue safely in the future as in the past. As the airport operator, it is your decision whether to continue to pursue this project or terminate it,” Blakey said.
In 2002, Terminal A at Bob Hope Airport was renovated and expanded. Plans existed for years to expand the airport with a new passenger terminal north of the existing one, but plans were dropped when the Burbank City Council and local groups mounted significant opposition.
A safety study by NASA and an academic panel last year stated conclusively that there is not a safety issue that requires the northern runway at LAX to be moved closer into the community, but the FAA decided that the safety study didn’t coincide with its expansion plans, and sent a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stating the safety study was flawed.
What could explain the FAA’s consideration for the Bob Hope Airport in not wanting to expose it and the community to “significant operational constraints, which would be financially and legally infeasible, and would require the acquisition of large amounts of private property beyond the boundary of the airport, and would require lowering of highways and railroads?”
Perhaps the officials from the three cities governing that airport and the concern they feel for the local residents and quality of life? Well, at least we, in the local community, don’t have a railroad to worry about.
The tragic major earthquake and tsunami in Japan on Friday, March 11 showed the devastation that an earthquake can bring. Given that LAX handles more than 75 percent of the air traffic in the region, how would LAWA accommodate the situation if a large magnitude earthquake struck this area?
The continued reliance on LAX for the majority of the region’s air traffic needs could be a disaster waiting to happen.