HOLLYWOOD—Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Thursday, December 12 that his office would be suing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the “southerly shift” of planes departing from the Hollywood-Burbank Airport. According to the complaint filed by Feuer’s office, the “southerly shift” has caused a significant increase in airplane noise and traffic without public notice, public comment, or proper environmental review from the FAA.

According to court documents, the City Attorney’s Office filed the complaint against the FAA to seek judicial review of the FAA’s conduct, and order obligation that the FAA must require its air traffic controllers to direct aircraft departing the Burbank-Hollywood airport to follow historic departure tracks. The lawsuit alleges that “tens of thousands of City residents and businesses have been adversely impacted by the departure track changes.”

In 2017, the FAA initiated two Standard Instrument Departure Procedures, SLAPP One and OROSZ Two at Burbank-Hollywood as part of the Southern California Metroplex project. The Southern Metroplex project includes a complete redesign of airspace, new Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures, and modern Time Based Flow Management (TBFM) usage to make the Southern California Metroplex airspace more efficient with improved access to its airports.

According to court documents, the FAA assessed potential environmental effects of the Departure Procedures in an Environmental Assessment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 2016. The FAA’s environmental analysis of the new Departure Procedures were based on the agency’s assumption that aircrafts departing Burbank-Hollywood Airport Runway 15 to the south would follow existing flight tracks before turning north to join the new departure procedures.

Included in the complaint is the FAA’s public acknowledgment that for at least several years, aircrafts departing Runway 15 are not adhering to pre-Metroplex flight tracks. The FAA stated that,“[i]t appears the Runway 15 departure tracks have shifted slightly south compared to the tracks from 2016.”

The southern shift in flight tracks acknowledged by the FAA have not been environmentally reviewed. Included in the complaint documentation is a graph of the flight patterns as provided by the FAA.

An excerpt from FAA’s presentation regarding the BUR flight tracks depicting the pre-Metroplex flight tracks of aircraft departing Runway 15 in 2016 and the 2018 flight tracks that have shifted south.

“When the City demanded that [the] FAA require departing aircraft adhere to historic departure flight tracks, the FAA responded by claiming that they were not responsible for the planes flying south of their historic tracks. 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,” said Feuer.

“The FAA’s theory that the constant, systemic deviation of departing aircraft from the pre-Metroplex flight tracks is attributable only to the vagaries of weather and other causes and unrelated to the directions of air traffic controllers is factually and legally incorrect,” states court documents.

In October 2019, Feuer sent a letter to the FAA requesting that it revert flight patterns to the original departure flight tracks and correct the southern shift.

Councilmember David Ryu stated, “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. By concentrating flight paths out of Burbank-Hollywood 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.”

Handling litigation are Chief Assistant City Attorney David Michaelson, Deputy City Attorney Ruth Kwon, and Peter Kirsch of Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell.