FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is NextGen?
NextGen is the Federal Aviation Administration's new satellite GPS system for guiding aircraft. It is being implemented all over the country.
How is it different to the previous system?
The FAA formerly used a radar system that dispersed flights in six-mile wide paths. With NextGen, the FAA has compressed these paths into narrow, undeviating half-mile corridors - massively increasing noise and pollution for those living under them. Previously, jets departing Hollywood Burbank Airport were dispersed over a six-mile area, sharing the burden of noise across the East San Fernando Valley. Since NextGen, however, flight paths have been narrowed to a half-mile wide area, at dramatically lower altitudes, and were shifted south directly above our once-tranquil hillside suburb, including the protected, 4(f)-designated wilderness of the Santa Monica Mountains. This High Fire Severity Zone was never studied as part of Metroplex and residents were never given notice of the change. Studio City is now subjected to almost 200 low and loud jets per day from Burbank, expected to increase by 15% per year - with an all-new Expanded Burbank Terminal coming in 2024. This is on top of some 80-100 flights per day from Van Nuys Airport - also increasing.
On what grounds did they justify this change?
The FAA claims that the narrow corridors promote efficiency and provide separation from other aircraft. The bottom line is it increases operations and saves the Airline industry billions of dollars. However, they failed to carry out any meaningful analysis of the noise, pollution and safety impacts of the new routes on the underlying communities. There is evidence that the aren't saving as much money as expected. The entire program appears to be a failure.
How does all this affect Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino?
Control towers and airlines gradually rolled out NextGen in Southern California ("The Southern California Metroplex") in November, 2016 and officially in March, 2017. See evidence of November 2016 rollout HERE. At Burbank Airport, Air Traffic Control began vectoring flights far south of the 101 Freeway in anticipation of the FAA creating two new departure procedures, named SLAPP TWO and OROSZ THREE.
What are the two New Proposed Procedures?
FAA has proposed TWO NEW BURBANK DEPARTURE PROCEDURES (SLAPP TWO and OROSZ THREE) which will create GPS-guided waypoints over Colfax/Ventura (near Carpenter Community Charter Elementary School) and at Hollyline, south of Valley Vista (near The Buckley School). These will serve to legitimize and make permanent flight paths that are already destroying our quality of life - while extending the air noise misery to Sherman Oaks and Encino. These procedures were proposed without an Environmental Assessment or any consultation with affected communities. Studio City has suffered a devastating increase in airplane noise since the introduction of NextGen.
Watch a Google Earth video of Proposed Procedures Path! Click here for VIDEO
How can you know for sure Burbank Air Traffic Control began vectoring planes far south of the 101 Freeway in late 2016 and early 2017?
Because of a study commissioned by Burbank Airport and carried out by consultants Landrum & Brown, at the request of U.S. Representative Adam Schiff. The final results of the study were presented at a packed public meeting on October 18, 2018. Read the full Landrum & Brown Study HERE.
When will these New Departure Proposed Procedures become official?
They were to be published in on April 25, 2019. However on March 25, 2019, the FAA announced that they will do an Environmental Assessment before implementing these proposed procedures. FAA then announced on Oct. 4, 2019, that process had not yet begun and will take 2 more years! See Announcement HERE. If the proposed procedures eventually publish, they will serve to memorialize, legitimize and make permanent the destruction of our quality of life in Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino - and the trashing from above of the protected, 4(f)-designated Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, with its bounty of natural and historic resources.
What is the flight path these New Proposed Procedures will create?
The procedures are based on two new waypoints, which are essentially virtual beacons in the sky. The first is at Colfax/Ventura; the other is at Hollyline, south of Valley Vista. This takes them directly over Carpenter Community Charter (a public K-5 elementary, with over 1,000 students), Harvard-Westlake School, Bridges Academy and The Buckley School, not to mention the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, one of LA's few remaining wildlife reserves. FAA has been unclear about where the exact ground tracks will be.
What about the CURRENT flight path and the noise we hear now?
As a result of our advocacy and the public controversy, the FAA has agreed to implement an Aviation Roundtable, including all stakeholders, elected officials, and community representatives, to address current flight paths.
Why did the FAA decide on these locations for the waypoints?
It was part of a Settlement Agreement with Benedict Hills to keep flights north of Mulholland Drive.
It is normal for low-altitude FAA waypoints to be placed directly over schools and a protected wilderness?
No. It is highly unusual, for reasons we hope would be obvious.
At exactly what altitudes will jets be flying along this superhighway in the sky?
Effectively only 1,622 feet AGL over Carpenter - and just 3,000 feet AGL over Buckley. These are extraordinarily low altitudes. The back-to-back, low-flying jets will follow Ventura and Valley Vista Boulevards from Studio City, through Sherman Oaks, past the 405 into Encino. And the aircraft will be gunning their engines (at maximum volume) all the way to gain altitude.
Will the long-term average increase in global temperatures have any influence on this?
It takes planes longer to gain altitude in higher temperatures. So as average temperatures rise, planes will get relatively lower over Studio City. Given this situation (acknowledged in the Burbank report) it is insanity to route the planes over elevated terrain, which makes relative altitudes even lower, thus worsening an already serious problem.
What are the risks of living under such a low flight path?
Emission particulates from jets fall to the ground when they fly below 3,000 feet - which they now do all the time in Studio City. CHILDREN ARE AT HIGHEST RISK and are considered "sensitive receptors." The European Union has found that noise can cause "both short and long-term health problems, such as annoyance, sleep disturbances or hearing impairment" and that "it may also lead to poorer physical and mental condition, reduced work and learning performance, or cardiovascular effects." Wildlife also suffers, and the value of protected wilderness areas - such as Studio City's Wilacre Park - is diminished.
What is Burbank's position on this?
Burbank wants to become a more serious rival to LAX. It has changed its name to Hollywood Burbank Airport for this reason. It has just welcomed a new $15 million Metrolink rail connection. It also wants to build an entirely new 14-gate terminal - at an estimated cost of $1.24 billion. All of this is likely to result in many more flights than the current almost 200 per day. (Capacity is controlled by the airlines, not by Burbank.) Nevertheless, Burbank has stated it wants to be "a good neighbor" and has officially objected to the FAA's proposed new procedures. Burbank Airport also sent the FAA an official section 175 Request. Airports and airlines can negotiate directly with the FAA - for example, by lobbying for planes to be vectored over natural noise corridors - and we believe that if there's enough public pressure, Burbank will listen and act.
What is wrong with Burbank having a New Expanded Terminal?
This proposed Expanded Terminal represents a profound threat to our LA Valley communities. Through cumulative actions taken by FAA/BUR, our communities and protected parklands have been fundamentally degraded – severely reducing quality of life by massively increasing noise and pollution. The proposed Expanded Terminal at Burbank will guarantee increased efficiency, even without adding more gates. That means more flights, larger jets and jets flying even closer together. The proposed Expanded Terminal will add significantly to the numerous cumulative negative impacts we are already experiencing under the disastrous 2017 change in flight path that occurred without notice or environmental study, resulting in more than 260 overflights per day. We cannot allow the proposed Expanded Terminal to go forward without fundamental and comprehensive changes in the flight path, protection of our communities and parklands, and limits on airport growth and operations. SIGN THE OPPOSE THE TERMINAL PETITION.
What is the timeline for completing Burbank's New Expanded Terminal?
Hundreds of people showed up at the Public Scoping meeting on 1/29/19 and commented before the deadline of 3/1/19. Please sign up for upcoming progress updates regarding the Burbank Terminal Expansion at www.burreplacementterminal.com. The next steps are as follows: the FAA is planning to hold 6 Public Meetings called "Charrette Workshops" commencing on March 27, 2019, and then on May 1, 2019. There will be another Public Comment Period in Fall 2019. The Terminal is projected to be completed by 2024 with the removal of the old terminal by 2026. Please go to the BUR Expansion Tab above for more information.
Does the City of Los Angeles have any control over Burbank?
No. When Lockheed sold the airport in 1978 to the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, the City of LA gave up any say over it. We note with interest that the current FAA flight paths see departing planes turn west over LA, not east over Pasadena.
If Burbank has a 10pm-7am curfew, why do we hear jets all night?
A Supreme Court ruling in 1973 found the City of Burbank's original curfew on the airport to be unconstitutional, and held that the FAA has "full control over aircraft noise, preempting state and local control." The FAA has since allowed a voluntary curfew, but has not allowed the airport to make it mandatory. When flights are delayed - such as the red-eye JetBlue flight to JFK that is regularly late - they are allowed to break the curfew without penalty. Non-commercial flights (including private jets and FedEx and UPS aircraft) are not subject to the airport's curfew.
Could some flights take off north to share the noise burden?
On "wind days" - i.e., when wind is blowing in a northerly or easterly direction, Burbank departures take off north, and arrivals approach from the south. In general, wind conditions on most days would not prevent northbound takeoffs, but since the north runway is uphill, the airport may not be ideally set up for taxiing aircraft in this direction. That said, we have seen many northern departures this season and note that these jets are gaining altitude far more quickly and are able to complete their turns within two miles. Northern departures should be more fully investigated.
Is there a way to object to NextGen flight paths from Burbank?
There was a public comments period that ended on November 18, 2018 - including two "public workshops."
Did the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 help our cause?
Section 175 directs the FAA to "consider the feasibility of dispersal headings or other lateral track variations to address community noise concerns" - as long as a request is made by the affected airport operator and community, among other conditions. But the law doesn't force the FAA to listen. Only successful litigation can do that.
If the FAA doesn't modify its proposed procedures, could we take legal action?
Whomever commented to the FAA before November 18, 2018, now has "standing" to take legal action in Washington, D.C. up to 60 days after publication. The cost of litigation would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Typically, only municipalities have the resources to do this. The city of Los Angeles is already preparing for legal action, and has hired expert outside counsel - the aviation law firm Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell - to help them consider all their options. They can't file a lawsuit until the proposed procedures officially publish. Once they publish, the City will have 60 days to file suit.
Will the City of Los Angeles really step up if the flight paths don't change?
The City of LA was taken by surprise by NextGen, and failed to take legal action against the FAA in a timely manner when new LAX flight paths were published. However, Culver City (which is incorporated, unlike Studio City) did file a timely lawsuit against the FAA over LAX flight paths, along with the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association and other parties. The D.C. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on October 18, 2018, and unfortunately, the Court ruled that the the petitions for review (the lawsuits) be denied on November 30, 2019. LA had joined the Culver City/LAX case as an "amicus curiae" - ie, a non-litigant with an interest in the outcome. If the City of Los Angeles eventually does sue the FAA and is successful in court, it is possible the court could overturn the entire SoCal Metroplex. LA is now up-to-speed on NextGen issues and has been closely involved with the Burbank flight paths from the beginning. Councilmember Paul Krekorian has long been supportive of our cause.
Could we get emergency injunctive relief?
No - because the procedures haven't published yet, making it impossible to show a "likelihood of success on the merits." We also couldn't show irreparable harm, among other factors.
Is Studio City just trying to push the noise onto other people?
No. We understand that air noise is a fact of life in a global city. But the burden needs to be shared, as it was prior to NextGen. And it is simply unacceptable to have back-to-back jets flying at just 1,622 feet AGL over a waypoint placed directly over a public elementary school with 1,000 students - never mind suddenly creating a jet superhighway in the sky over our heads with zero notice, environmental study or consultation, especially when the superhighway goes deep into the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, which covers over 153,000 acres and - per the National Park Service - "protects a mosaic of natural and historic resources." Further, the Santa Monica Mountains are a High Fire Severity Zone Area with limited ingress and egress - a plane crash would create catastrophic wild fires. Finally, moving flight paths over the hills makes no sense at all, given that hillside elevations make jet altitudes relatively lower, and that canyon acoustics make jet engines more disruptive. Those who live both south and north of Ventura Boulevard have found that air noise bounces off the mountains, making the roar of each jet louder and last much longer.
What does Studio City for Quiet Skies want?
For the flight paths to be moved out of the protected Santa Monica Mountains, with more dispersal, higher altitudes, runway rotation, and other noise mitigation techniques - plus a thorough review of Burbank's Terminal Expansion - so that no one community is exposed to the hyper-concentrated noise and pollution that Studio City currently endures.
Our friends at Burbank for Quiet Skies created this video in January 2018 but it is still relevant for understanding NextGen: