The city of Los Angeles sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday over a shift in flight patterns for planes departing Hollywood Burbank Airport that has dramatically increased noise levels for residents and businesses.
Under the FAA’s 2017 Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, and its Southern California Metroplex plan, planes began using satellite navigation to chart out more efficient flight paths after takeoff.
But under the FAA’s plan, departures from Hollywood Burbank Airport shifted to lower altitudes and led to increased noise levels in southeast San Fernando Valley cities such as Studio City and Encino.
The move by the FAA was done without public notice and without proper environmental review, according to the city’s 8-page petition for review filed in the Ninth Circuit.
Attorneys for the city wrote in the petition that as part of its environmental review of the plan, the FAA assumed that planes would follow long-used flight paths.
“However, two years later, and after hundreds of thousands of noise complaints from frustrated city residents and businesses, the FAA conceded that, in recent years, departing aircraft have consistently deviated from the historic flight tracks by flying a more southerly path,” the petition says.
LA City Attorney Mike Feuer told reporters Thursday the FAA has responded to the city’s request for changes by saying it’s not responsible for planes deviating from their historic flight paths.
“The FAA is abdicating its responsibility,” Feuer said in a press conference. “The city wants [the FAA] to be ordered to correct the southern shift that was not studied in Metroplex.”
Feuer said the city wants the FAA to order planes to go back to using previous flight patterns.
LA Councilmember Paul Krekorian said that while the lawsuit is not the best method for compelling FAA action, it is needed since the federal agency has denied multiple requests by the city for information about airplane traffic at Burbank Airport.
“We know that a sudden and dramatic change occurred in the skies over [the San Fernando Valley] in 2017,” Krekorian told reporters. “We wrote repeatedly to the FAA with no response. There’s been no explanation for what they must admit which is that noise has increased in certain areas and flight patterns have changed.”
LA Councilmember David Ryu said in a statement Thursday that the FAA has shown no concern for the harm caused by the spikes in noise levels.
“By concentrating flight paths out of Hollywood Burbank Airport, the FAA has put an endless caravan of low-flying planes over homes, schools and parks, without offering the community sufficient input or explanation,” Ryu said in the statement. “Enough is enough – if we won’t see the FAA at the bargaining table, we will see them in court.”
The FAA said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation – and then offered a lengthy explanation about takeoff pattens at BUR.
“As we have explained to the communities and the San Fernando Valley Task Force, we have not changed how we handle Burbank departures in the immediate airport environment. Aircraft today – as they have in the past – turn to a compass heading shortly after takeoff and continue to fly that heading until air traffic controllers instruct pilots to begin their turns to the west and north. The changes that we made in March 2017 take effect 11 nautical miles north, and 17 nautical miles northwest, of the airport,” the FAA said in an email.
“Some flights do fly further southwest today before beginning their turns. That could be due to a number of factors including air traffic volume, air temperature, fleet mix, radio frequency congestion and air traffic control priorities.”
LA has previously sued the FAA in federal court over what it described as a shoddy environmental review of noise levels caused by planes arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.
Feuer said Thursday that the case is in mediation but has yet to yield significant results.
— By Martin Macias Jr.