By TONY LUCENTE As a conflict over the possible banning of some older, noisy U.S.-made jetliners in Europe looms as one of several issues threatening U.S.-European trade, a similar conflict in the San Fernando Valley has pitted residents against businesses and community against community in an equally fierce, if smaller-scale, battle. Aircraft noise from Van Nuys and Burbank airports has given birth to several well-organized efforts aimed at achieving significant noise reductions, while other groups are actively promoting expansion at both airports. There is some indication that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now willing to increase its involvement in resolving these disputes. We hope this is the beginning of the hands-on FAA interaction that FAA Administrator Jane Garvey committed to during her August 1998 visit to L.A. At Van Nuys, noise opponents, with the backing of several city and state officials, are locked in battle with L.A.’s Department of Airports, the Van Nuys Citizens Advisory Council and airport tenants over a “non-addition rule” that would ban noisier Stage II aircraft from being added at Van Nuys or phase out the planes from the airport’s huge private fleet. Neither plan addresses helicopter noise. Plan supporters say this is the only way to get noise relief around the nation’s busiest general aviation airport. Opponents, including companies supporting the airport operations, maintain that the non-addition rule or elimination of Stage II aircraft, no matter how gradual, would destroy the profitable city-owned airport, dealing a severe blow to the local economy. That analysis to date does not bear out this conclusion, although the claim continues to make for good politicking. Interestingly, the Studio City Residents Association (SCRA) and other East Valley groups are fearful that any phase-out of Stage II aircraft at Van Nuys will simply exacerbate the Burbank Airport noise problem because these planes would likely move to Burbank, which doesn’t have the same Stage II restrictions for private aircraft. The players in the Burbank Airport fight range from the airport’s governing institution and biggest proponent, the Burbank Airport Authority, to noise opponents like resident/homeowner coalitions, including the SCRA, and the Burbank City Council. Armed with a crack legal and public relations team, the council has joined Los Angeles residents in waging an aggressive assault against the previously unchallenged airport authority. The authority is controlled by Glendale and Pasadena board members, who, as co-owners of the airport with Burbank, share equal representation on the governing board but are spared any significant noise impact as they lie outside of current flight patterns. Burbank and L.A. residents to the south and southwest get most of the aircraft noise. Unlike Van Nuys, the FAA is in the middle of the Burbank Airport dispute. At stake is a new airport terminal mandated by the FAA and largely funded by it. Noise opponents have proposed several noise mitigation measures that may require FAA approval, such as flight curfews and a proposed cap on flights, and the FAA has just agreed to consider the mandatory curfew question. The Burbank City Council is leveraging approval of the proposed airport expansion to get these noise mitigations. On the other hand, the airport authority strongly promotes the need to build a new, expanded terminal for safety reasons. As for the potential noise impacts from an expanded airport, airport officials claim, incredibly, that there won’t be an impact because airplanes cause noise, terminals don’t. With these positions, it’s no wonder that the intervention of local congressmen, mediators and a plethora of lawsuits has done little to resolve this issue. Even FAA Administrator Garvey’s visit last year has failed thus far to move the two sides closer to a solution. But the FAA can help resolve these disputes. As the only agency with jurisdiction over airport operations for the entire region, the FAA could lead a team of stakeholders, as they are doing at LAX, to explore regional solutions to these problems. Airport operations in a small geographic area such as the San Fernando Valley are interrelated, and some problems warrant regional solutions. For example, you just can’t limit one type of aircraft at one airport without anticipating the impact at another nearby airport that doesn’t share the same limitation. Furthermore, alternate flight patterns often suggested to mitigate noise could be evaluated in the context of flight patterns for all airports in L.A.’s busy traffic corridor. An FAA-facilitated process might also mean that all impacted stakeholders, like Studio City residents, could participate in resolving these difficult and complex issues. We know that we’ll all have to bear some of the impacts if fair and effective solutions are to be found, and are ready to share our ideas and energy to achieve this goal. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the FAA needs to find the will to take on this challenge. Both the Van Nuys and Burbank airport operations are valuable regional assets that serve the needs of a variety of public and private constituencies and undisputedly contribute to the local economy. This fact, coupled with the quality of life of residents who live near these airports, should be enough reason for the FAA to step forward and take the lead. Tony Lucente is president of the Studio City Residents Association.