At Burbank, the issue is local control — making it national
By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
The original United Airport at Burbank and terminal were constructed in 1930
BURBANK, CA — There is a bigger picture here. It’s lost, it seems, in a sea of special interests with politics for oxygen. The process issuffocating. Yet, the FAA and airport authority keep on with the target of making the Burbank Airport safe. A 25-year process has only brought steps aside or backward, and a tired terminal still stands too near airside activities. The entire community now has a say in how it will be replaced, and is holding it hostage for a curfew. That’s led to a Part 161 study and a heightened concern from industry groups.
Acting executive director Dios Marrero,
who remains hopeful despite the history of setbacks, says the Burbank
Airport impasse is reflective of U.S. politics in general. "Political
leaders are creating jobs, they’re bringing in industry, they’re
implementing economic development strategies, and then they’re shocked
when that creates aviation demand.
"We’re really just a microcosm of a dynamic that’s occurring statewide and that occurs in communities around the country. Not all communities; there are some that are able to recognize the need for transportation facilities."
[It should be noted, Marrero in February announcred he will step down from his post once a successor is found, and resume his previous position as director of finance and administration.]
Comments Victor Gill, 53, who has been with the authority since 1984 and who serves as director of public affairs and communications, "This is the downside of a political body having a pivotal role in airport proprietorship."
A 1930s DESIGN
When built, it was an airport touted for its proximity away from urban areas and design of facilities clear of airside activities. That was before the jet age and post-war California.
A year ago, the Burbank Airport drew national attention when a Southwest Airlines aircraft slid off the end of the runway, stopping short of a gas station. Today, the gas station is gone and other runway safety initiatives have been implemented, including plans for arresting pavement that could have stopped the aircraft. But it does not address the fundamental problem of a terminal facility lying too close to the runway.
Explains Gill, "The airport has this fundamental layout problem. Having been built in 1930, it has a terminal building hundreds of feet closer than the 750-foot building restriction line."
In its day, it was the first million dollar U.S. airport, offering first-rate facilities and aviation tenants such as Northrup and Hamilton Standard. It was constructed by United Airports Company of California, a predecessor of United Airlines, and was known as the United Airport at Burbank.
In 1940, Lockheed purchased the airport. (Today, the contract management firm, TBI, is a derivative of that firm, having purchased Airport Group International, the former Lockheed Air Terminal.) It is here that Lockheed built the top secret Stealth Fighter, on property that has become central to the terminal debate.
In the 1970s, Lockheed announ-ced its intention to sell the airport, leading to the formation in 1978 of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority which today owns and operates it. Each of the three cities names three members to the nine-member authority, but the airport lies within Burbank’s city limits, also central to the terminal discussion.
Burbank Airport currently serves some five million passengers annually, with some 90 commercial flights and 190,000 operations. The generally agreed upon new terminal would be 250,000 square feet with 14 gates — the current amount — with no plans for significant expansion.
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