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San Fernando
Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Walking a Fine Line

As the primary commercial airport serving the San Fernando Valley area, the Bob Hope Airport walks a fine line between creating jobs and revenues while at the same time protecting surrounding residential neighborhoods from noise, pollution, and traffic generated by aircraft and autos. At the head of administering the airfield is Dan Feger, a civil engineer by training , who was appointed executive director in August by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Feger takes that position at an interesting time in the airport’s history as it moves ahead to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to make mandatory a voluntary 10 p.m. to 6:59 a.m. no-fly curfew. A draft application to the FAA has concluded that a curfew is a cost-effective way to achieve noise relief; that more money would be spent insulating homes from aircraft noise than would be lost if the curfew were in place. “Nobody has gotten this far with a Part 161 study,” Feger said. “The study looks at the impact on the national aviation system, so it is complicated, lengthy and detailed.” Feger came to the airport in 1988 as director of planning and engineering after working in the oil industry. He was named deputy executive director in 2001 and became interim executive director earlier this year when Dios Marrero, who died in February, became ill. Question: Describe the mission statement of the Bob Hope Airport. Answer: The airport’s mission statement basically says the airport intends to operate a safe, secure, convenient, state of the art facility while protecting the environment and being a good neighbor. Q: Going to the part of about being a good neighbor, how are relations between the Authority and the City of Burbank? A: I would say in the last couple of years the relations are at the highest level than they have ever been. I think the reason for that is we have a unanimous commission committed to, frankly, seeking meaningful nighttime noise relief for the community. Over the last 30-plus years one of the strategic objectives was to provide meaningful nighttime noise relief so people who live in the vicinity of the airport can sleep at night. That’s been an elusive goal for many years for a variety of reasons. But in the last couple of years the authority has focused on completing its FAR Part 161 study which looks at benefits and costs on access restrictions to airports. What our study found was by imposing a curfew the costs that affected aircraft owners and operators would experience are less than the costs that would be accrued by sound insulating additional homes. In the 161 arena you balance benefits and costs and if you can demonstrate the benefits exceed the costs you are well on your way to fulfilling some of the requirements the FAA imposes before they can approve a curfew. In the past we were never able to find that silver bullet that the costs were less than the benefits. With that accomplishment the three cities Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena rallied behind the Part 161 process. Q: What changed that you were able to show the benefits outweighed the costs? A: I guess it was a commitment on all of our part; a commitment to make this work. Over the years because there was so much animosity between the different parties nobody knew which way to turn. A few years ago the FAA said this was a safe facility and put it in writing. And that pronouncement by the FAA took the replacement terminal off the table. When that was taken off the table it allowed all of us to focus on running the airport and fulfilling the mission statement. By taking it off the table it paved the way for everyone to think it through and see how we can make this curfew work. I think sometimes people can achieve solutions when their heart is in it and there is motivation to do it. When there is controversy surrounding anything people are afraid to look outside the box. Q: What still needs to be done to get the curfew in place? A: Last June during the public comments period on our application the FAA asked for an extension of time, which we gave them. In that extension they put together a very comprehensive letter to us that detailed a large number of concerns they had about a curfew. Specifically they raised questions about the environmental impacts on the adjacent communities and adjacent airports by imposing a curfew here. The authority approved some additional consulting money so they can address those FAA issues. Once that additional study has been completed we will bring to the commission an application ready for their review and approval. If the commission approves the application they will direct staff to submit it to the FAA for review. Q: If the curfew goes into place, how will that affect airport operations? A: The airport is made up of several different types of aviation service. We have the air carriers; we have the air cargo carriers that move freight, and we have general aviation, fixed-based operators that manage jets for business travel. We have smaller general aviation piston aircraft that fly in and out here. They are all affected differently. The air carriers for the most part are fairly unaffected by it (the curfew) because they for the most part, maybe 95 percent to 98 percent, comply with the voluntary curfew. The air cargo would be more affected. There are some early morning arrivals of air cargo jets. Those would be prohibited by the curfew. It would mean the air cargo operations here would probably take longer to deliver packages to this area because those jets would relocate to LAX or Ontario so there is more trucking time to get the cargo here. Q: And general aviation? A: If you look at the application in that study there is an identification of aircraft that would probably shift operations to other airports. For example, with a full curfew, there are some 33 aircraft that would be expected to shift to Van Nuys in the daytime and the nighttime as a result of the curfew. There is some impact; there is some inconvenience to executives who like to fly out of this airport. The Part 161 study looks at that inconvenience and assigns a monetary cost to it. That is part of the cost that is computed and weighed against the benefits to the community of reducing noise. Q: How important is general aviation to the airport? A: General aviation is important because it is a big source of revenue for us. We get a considerable amount of rent from two fixed-base operators. We have direct leaseholds with other general aviation interests. The ability to have general aviation services here in Burbank is of vital importance to the core industry of this area, which is entertainment. … The airport is located in the Golden State Redevelopment Area. The baseline tax rate is a 1970 property tax rate. Any taxes collected above that level go to the Burbank Redevelopment Agency. While the airport authority does not take property tax per se, tenants pay possessory interest on the aircraft they base here. The airlines and the aircraft owners pay possessory interest on aircraft in transit. Each based aircraft here pays a 1 percent property tax. When a tenant decides to park or base a $50 million jet here the city of Burbank gets $500,000 in property tax. That is the equivalent to the kind of sales tax a city might get from a Wal-Mart in a year. It’s a lot of money. Q: How are the relations between the authority and the city of Los Angeles? A: When I first got here the relationship was pretty poor. Los Angeles, in fact, initiated litigation against the EIR for the replacement terminal. … There was substantial conflict between the two entities. As the rhetoric about the terminal toned down the animosity diminished because the airport was no longer threatening to build the terminal. The relationship became neutral. One of the things that came out of our Part 161 study is that some 33 flights a day are forecast to shift to Van Nuys Airport. Well, when that was made public it created a hue and cry in the city of Los Angeles, primarily from the people who live near Van Nuys Airport. The city weighed in as well and objected through the mayor as well as LAWA to our Part 161 study on the basis of the noise shifting. Our position was there are some 170,000 Los Angeles residents to the south of the airport affected by nighttime noise. The city objected to noise shifting to Van Nuys but didn’t take a position for those affected residents. It turns out this problem of noise shifting has created a great deal of consternation with us and Los Angeles. Our relationship has eroded over this issue. Dan Feger Title: Executive Director Age: 55 Education: MS and BS from UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Most Admired: George Patton Career Turning Point: Changing from the oil industry to aviation industry Personal: Married, twin 28-year-old sons

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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