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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Grounding Airport Curfews

In 1990, members of the then-Democratic Congress drafted a law to control the noise of commercial, business and recreational aircraft departing airports across America. Much to the surprise of many people, the Airport and Capacity Act of 1990 (ANCA) was uniformly fair. It worked to achieve the greatest noise reduction by setting a phase-out date in 10 years for aircraft that were both noisy and would approach the end of their commercial life cycle. But quieting business aircraft turned out to be more complicated. New aircraft were introduced to this fleet more frequently and a more sophisticated method for evaluating noise reduction methods was needed. So, this even-handed Congress decided to use an objective economic method for the business-aviation segment in applying ANCA. The rule stated that an airport proprietor, or municipality, could adopt a noise-control measure if the economic benefit of the noise reduction exceeded the negative impact on the aircraft and its owner. This concept was well accepted by aircraft owners and operators because it afforded them a fair, objective and logical basis for the decision-making process. The bug here is the notion of “fair, objective and logical” in political circles. The analytic process under ANCA is known as a Part 161 study. Over the years, since the adoption of ANCA in 1990, a number of Part 161 studies have been undertaken nationwide by airport authorities at the behest of local elected officials on behalf of constituents who want to limit takeoffs and landings. These studies have generally failed to demonstrate a noise-reduction benefit in excess of the cost born by aircraft owners and operators. In the process, they have largely produced only frustration for local elected officials. At Burbank airport, the first Part 161 was partially completed in 2003 and rejected by the Federal Aviation Administration because it didn’t satisfy the criteria for approval. The letter from the FAA cited 11 specific issues that drove their decision. After a second Part 161 in 2009 didn’t succeed – in a reaction to their failure to get what they wanted out of an objective analysis – local Reps. Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman and Howard Berman attempted to get their overnight curfew for Van Nuys and Bob Hope Airports through as an attachment to the 2011 FAA Re-Authorization Bill. That failed, so that same year, Schiff introduced HR 842, a stand-alone curfew bill that would have forbidden operations from 10:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. at Van Nuys and Burbank. That bill died in committee. Now Schiff and Sherman are back with a slightly different take on their old concept. HR 2120 gives the municipal operators of both airports exemptions from the fair, objective and logical processes of Part 161. It allows them, absent any ANCA analysis, to adopt the same old 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. curfew prohibiting all overnight operations. This bill has two enormous flaws. First, it completely renders asunder the protections of ANCA. And secondly, it puts Van Nuys operator Los Angeles World Airports and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority in a position to adopt ordinances that will, during their first three years in effect, cost people and businesses across the San Fernando Valley $1.2 to $1.4 billion in lost economic activity. You may ask yourselves why impose such a costly bill when Burbank already is 98 percent voluntarily compliant with the bill’s curfew, and since the end of the first quarter of 2010, based on a certification of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys is fully compliant with state noise standards. What’s more, the state Division of Aeronautics on July 12, 2012 advised LAWA that it no longer needed a variance to operate Van Nuys under state noise laws, contrary to what the bill states in its summary. It is unfortunate for the congressmen to have filed their bill 38 months since Van Nuys first came into conformity with state standards. Perhaps there are folks so thoroughly averse to a vibrant business climate in Los Angeles that they will submit a bill like this, even hurting the very constituents they represent. This bad legislation should be withdrawn quickly before anyone will be able to read the names of the sponsors. Robert L. Rodine, is principal consultant at the Polaris Group, a Sherman Oaks economics and finance practice.

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