In an effort to find relief for residents and businesses, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer has announced that his office is suing the Federal Aviation Administration over what’s known as the “southerly shift” of planes departing Hollywood Burbank Airport. The FAA has allowed the change in departure flight tracks with no public notice, public comment or proper environmental review, Feuer said. The southerly shift has caused a significant increase in airplane noise and traffic, and the lawsuit seeks judicial action to require FAA to order its air traffic controllers to direct aircraft to depart from the airport using historic departure tracks.
“We’re fighting to get relief for tens of thousands of residents and businesses in the southeast Valley and Santa Monica Mountains who’ve borne the brunt of increased aircraft noise and other impacts,” Feuer said. “We’re urging the court to order the FAA to return to previous flight patterns and divulge information about Burbank Airport airplane traffic, which the public has long been entitled to see.”
“My colleagues and I have written letters, passed legislation and hosted meetings to try and get meaningful action from the Federal Aviation Administration, but the agency has failed to show any real concern or urgency for the harm they are causing,” said Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, 4th District. “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. Enough is enough. If we won’t see the FAA at the bargaining table, we will see them in court.”
According to Feuer’s complaint, the FAA announced two departure procedures at the Hollywood Burbank Airport in 2017 as part of the Southern California Metroplex project, according to the complaint. Metroplex is an FAA initiative to improve regional traffic movement by optimizing airspace and procedures based on precise satellite-based navigation. FAA’s environmental assessment for the new procedures relied on the assumption that departing aircraft would follow historic flight tracks. However, two years later, and after hundreds of thousands of noise complaints from 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 complaint read.
“When the city demanded that FAA require departing aircraft adhere to historic departure flight tracks, FAA responded – not by denying the planes were persistently intruding into new airspace – but by claiming that FAA wasn’t responsible for the planes flying south of their historic tracks,” the complaint read. “The FAA seeks to avoid responsibility pointing to everything but its own action or inaction: weather, wind, plane volume, safety, aircraft and equipment capabilities and even pilot abilities.”
In October of this year, Feuer sent a letter to the FAA demanding it revert to the original departure flight tracks and correct the erroneous southern shift. FAA responded by denying it is responsible for the change in flight tracks and refusing to order its air traffic controllers to direct aircraft to depart from the airport using historic flight tracks and, thus, negate the southerly shift, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks to have the FAA take responsibility for planes departing Hollywood Burbank Airport by requiring the agency to place aircraft back on the historic flight paths. Chief Assistant City Attorney David Michaelson, Deputy City Attorney Ruth Kwon and Peter Kirsch, of Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell, are handling the litigation.