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Federal officials reject restrictions on night flights at Bob Hope Airport

November 2, 2009 |  8:58 am

Bobhopeairport Federal officials today dealt a blow to a decades-long fight to restrict nighttime flights at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

The Federal Aviation Administration rejected a request by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority for a curfew. The FAA found that a curfew "was not reasonable"’ because it would "create an undue burden on commerce" and negatively effect the national air transportation system. It also said other alternatives are available for dealing with noise.

The agency announced its decision in a 43-page letter released today. The FAA said the airport authority can challenge the decision in federal court.

 The agency, in a briefing paper on its decision, listed six conditions the airport was required to meet, then wrote the word "failed" next to four of them. "A restriction proposal must, however, meet all six conditions," the paper says. "Based on the information submitted in this application, it is not likely the benefits will outweigh the costs to users."

Local officials have fought for years to restrict flights at the airport to reduce noise in surrounding residential neighborhoods. The Supreme Court even weighed in in 1973, striking down a Burbank ordinance banning overnight takeoffs from the airport, then called the Hollywood-Burbank Airport.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which operates the airport, sought to prohibit flights between 10 p.m. and 6.59 a.m. except for emergencies. But the airport’s request ran into strong political turbulence from Fed Ex, United Parcel Service and other cargo companies and trade groups that objected to a curfew as a burden on interstate commerce that would harm the economy just as it was showing signs of recovery. They also contended that a curfew at Bob Hope Airport would have a ripple effect on the national air transportation system, leading other airports to seek to restrict flights.

Opponents also accused the airport of exaggerating the noise problem and argued that there are other ways to address noise short of imposing a curfew, such as soundproofing more houses near the airport. But Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Howard Berman (D-Valley Village), among those pushing for a curfew, argued that it would provide "meaningful nighttime noise relief" to the communities surrounding the airport.

The city of Burbank said in a filing with the FAA, "While aircraft noise is a common concern in many communities, we are not aware of any other community in which the particular problem of nighttime noise has been so contentious for such a long period of time. In short, the nighttime noise problem has defined this airport and this community for several decades."

Curfew supporters argue that it would affect a small number of aircraft -- mostly cargo and private planes -- "an almost imperceptible number of operations in the context of the national air transportation system," as the city of Burbank put it.

The FAA had to determine that the curfew was "reasonable, nonarbitrary and nondiscriminatory," did not create an undue burden on interstate or foreign commerce; maintained safe and efficient use of the navigable airspace; and did not create an undue burden on the national aviation system.

-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: A plane takes off from Bob Hope Airport in a 2005 file photo. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

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