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I attended the FAA’s NextGen workshop on Monday and was relieved to hear some of my concerns with the new satellite air traffic control system can be put to rest. However, I’m not completely convinced we residents can let our guard down. The FAA is being sued all over the country and they certainly would not answer any questions regarding those complaints. “Sorry we can’t comment due to the current lawsuits” was the standard line and I heard it at least three times. I want to be clear that I believe there will eventually be an increase in the number of flights in and out of the new terminal here in Burbank. The FAA has publically stated air travel is expected to increase by 50% by 2025 (from 2011 levels.) This NextGen video I produced still rings true as far as capacity and an increase in flights. After all, I took the footage directly from the FAA YouTube channel!  But it’s looking like Burbank may be spared a lot of what has plagued other cities.  I certainly hope so and I do feel good about what I heard at the workshop. Anyway on to the good news. Here are some bullet points that outline what I learned at the workshop:

  • The FAA promises flight paths that will affect noise patterns around the airport will not be changed or they will change very little.
  • The FAA agreed takeoffs of large jets to the east are theoretically possible once the old terminal is demolished but there are no plans to do so for the foreseeable future. (see below)
  • NextGen is all about efficiency and safety.  It absolutely makes it possible for more flights in and out of the airport but the FAA doesn’t control this, the airlines and the airport do.
  • NextGen flight paths have only been flown in simulators, none of the paths have been flown by air carriers yet. Nothing has changed according to the FAA.
  • When NextGen is rolled out in the spring, there will be a few weeks of reduced flights to ensure the system is working safely.

So if we take them at their word we have little to worry about. I do believe these folks from the FAA are being honest. Their job is to get people from point to point safely. But here are some concerns I have even after the workshop:

  • The noise studies used to predict any changes were all conducted using computer models and not real data from airports including Burbank. Could this be the reason the FAA is being sued all over the country for noise increases? What did the computer models miss that people on the ground are so angry about?
  • A study was conducted in 2008 with an accompanying report titled “Increasing Airport Capacity Without Increasing Airport Size” that states that NextGen could allow large aircraft to take off to the east in Burbank. (page 9) As I stated above, FAA reps say that is unlikely and “airlines have not asked for it.” Residents should be paying attention for any changes once the old terminal is demolished.
  • If you live under the revised flight paths you may experience a lot more noise as planes will fly in very narrow lines after takeoff. Currently planes are spread out. After NextGen takes effect in the spring the “lanes” will be very precise.
  • FAA reps were adamant that only the airlines and the airport can increase the amount of flights in or out of the airport. I for one believe we will see in an increase as I’ve stated.

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Potential eastward takeoffs and higher rate of departures illustrated:

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The Burbank Leader article on the workshop explains how residents who were concerned with the airport are cautiously optimistic about the changes that are coming along with NextGen. I’m one of those people. Glad to hear the flight paths will change very little but also wondering if in a few years we’ll be filing suit against the FAA as so many other cities have done over noise increases. Councilman Will Rogers has gone out of his way to paint myself, this blog and Save Burbank Neighborhoods as “nutball” conspiracy theorists. He’s wrong. Here’s what we were right about:

  • NextGen was never brought up to the public before I started asking questions.
  • NextGen was designed to increase airport capacity nationwide without constructing new runways.
  • The Measure B vote was RUSHED to the ballot in November. We asked for the vote to be moved to a municipal election so we had more time to ask questions.
  • The City Council was asked numerous questions from concerned citizens not affiliated with myself or SBN about NextGen. They remained silent; adding to the sense that something was rotten about the whole thing.
  • We voters have every right to be concerned with modified flight procedures that have resulted in NextGen lawsuits all over the country. The council never spoke up to assuage those fears.

Will Rogers, Emily Gabel-Luddy, Jess Talamantes and Bob Frutos failed us on Measure B. And for a second act, they are protecting their friends from the airport and Chamber of Commerce who misappropriated public money to campaign for a Yes on Measure B vote.