It hasn’t been easy. The process by which communities can attempt to get more local control over activities at their airport — the Federal Aviation Regulation Part 161 study and approval process — was intended to be a challenge. For the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which oversees the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, it has been arduous, relates executive director Dan Feger. In late May, the authority was notified by the Federal Aviation Administration that the agency had approved the authority’s Part 161 study and application as complete, and FAA expects to make a final ruling to approve or disapprove the airport’s proposed curfew on Stage 3 aircraft operations by November 1. Feger recently spoke with AIRPORT BUSINESS about the initiative. [Note: The interview was conducted just prior to the FAA’s acceptance of the application.]
This is the first FAR Part 161 study to seek Stage 3 restrictions. It follows an effort by the airport in Naples, FL which sought Stage 2 aircraft restrictions and underwent a similarly intense and costly process that ultimately was successful via the courts.
Bob Hope Airport wants to put a curfew on most aircraft operations (except emergency services; law enforcement; etc.) between 10 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. [FAA’s letter and additional information are available at www.bobhopeairport.com.]
Feger has been employed at the Bob Hope Airport since 1988, originally as director of planning and engineering. More significantly, he has been involved with the Part 161 process from the beginning, he says.
Following are edited excerpts of the interview with Feger ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: As someone who has been involved with the Part 161 process from the beginning, what would be your assessment of your airport’s experience?
Feger: Groundbreaking. We’re the first airport in the United States that has ever gone as far as we’ve gone in trying to pursue an access restriction on Stage 3 aircraft. Naples was Stage 2 aircraft. So, it’s groundbreaking.
We’re waiting with baited breath to get a letter back from FAA, which we hope we’ll get in the next few days which will deem our application is complete. It means that we have submitted all of the required documentation and analysis that is necessary in order for the FAA to do a comprehensive review of our application.
AB: Are you optimistic?
Feger: In terms of getting it deemed complete, I’m optimistic. FAA has already sent us correspondence which was pretty pessimistic. The FAA has sent us letters which would give you a pretty pessimistic picture of their willingness to grant a full curfew to the airport.
AB: An interesting thing about Part 161 is, communities see it as an avenue to control their local airport. Yet, if you talk with FAA airport division folks, they tell you that it’s actually intented to do just the opposite. That is, to discourage airport sponsors by making the process arduous. Your thoughts?
Feger: That’s consistent with the language that FAA wrote to us about our application, where they said it set a high bar — I think those were the exact words.
AB: What has been the response from your tenants?
Feger: It’s not popular with the airline business in general. Nobody who owns an airplane and has an investment in hardware wants to have a restriction as to when he can use it.
By the same token, members of the community are trying to enjoy their quality of life. There has to be some sort of a compromise there.
The authority for many years has had a voluntary curfew here, and it’s been highly effective. But it’s not completely effective.
AB: You’ve spent millions of dollars on this effort. Yet, you have a voluntary curfew program that has been effective. Considering the amount of money spent, and the prospects that FAA won’t approve it, is it justified?