Af­ter com­plaints, JetBlue plans to make fleet qui­eter

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Priscella Vega priscella.vega@la­times.com Vega writes for Times Com­mu­nity News.

JetBlue an­nounced this week that it plans to retro­fit its en­tire Air­bus fleet with noise-re­duc­ing vor­tex gen­er­a­tors by 2021, mark­ing a vic­tory for Hunt­ing­ton Beach res­i­dents who say the air­line’s jet noise has harmed their qual­ity of life.

Vor­tex gen­er­a­tors, also known as air de­flec­tors, in­ter­rupt wind pass­ing over parts of a wing and caus­ing what JetBlue de­scribes as a “whistling” tone when a jet de­scends. The air­line said Wednesday that it would fin­ish in­stalling the gen­er­a­tors on 130 Air­bus A320 air­craft and eight A321s by 2021.

The air­line be­gan re­ceiv­ing new air­craft de­liv­er­ies with vor­tex gen­er­a­tors in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment. All fu­ture Air­bus or­ders will have vor­tex gen­er­a­tors.

“While the air­line in­dus­try has ben­e­fited from ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and ef­fi­ciency, lead­ing to qui­eter planes and en­gines, the work is never done,” Joe Ber­tapelle, JetBlue’s di­rec­tor of strate­gic airspace pro­grams, said in a state­ment. “We’re pleased to in­cor­po­rate this ad­vance­ment across our Air­bus fleet and con­tribute to our com­mu­ni­ties in a mean­ing­ful way as good cor­po­rate cit­i­zens.”

Hunt­ing­ton Beach City Coun­cil­man Pa­trick Bren­den, who serves as a li­ai­son for the city’s newly ap­proved Jet Noise Com­mis­sion, said JetBlue’s an­nounce­ment shows that the “grow­ing cho­rus of peo­ple across the coun­try that are im­pacted by the noise is­sues are hav­ing an im­pact.”

But “this doesn’t end their com­plaints,” Bren­den said. He called it “one step in a process of in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments” that will be achieved through col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach Mayor Mike Posey asked county and fed­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tives in April to ad­dress avi­a­tion noise re­lated to the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­gional air traf­fic sys­tem. He de­scribed Hunt­ing­ton as an “epi­cen­ter” for “heav­ily con­cen­trated new land­ing and fly­over pat­terns.”

The FAA has said that more than two dozen air routes have his­tor­i­cally passed over Hunt­ing­ton Beach.

About a week af­ter Posey’s let­ter, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher — a Costa Mesa Repub­li­can whose 48th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in­cludes Hunt­ing­ton Beach and parts of Foun­tain Val­ley, Costa Mesa, New­port Beach and La­guna Beach — called on JetBlue to retro­fit its planes and have them fly at the high­est al­ti­tudes pos­si­ble when ap­proach­ing Long Beach Air­port.

Res­i­dents and of­fi­cials of Hunt­ing­ton Beach and neigh­bor­ing cities have com­plained about air­line noise in the last year, since the FAA im­ple­mented flight path al­ter­ations as part of its South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Metro­plex pro­ject cov­er­ing the re­gion’s air­ports, in­clud­ing Long Beach and Or­ange County’s John Wayne Air­port.

The agency said the changes would shore up in­ef­fi­cien­cies, save fuel and re­duce car­bon emis­sions and flight de­lays. New­port Beach and La­guna Beach sued the FAA over the pro­ject in 2016, say­ing its en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view, which de­ter­mined there would be no sig­nif­i­cant ef­fects, was in­ad­e­quate. Both cities reached set­tle­ments this year.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach also hoped for some noise re­lief af­ter JetBlue an­nounced in April that it would re­duce its daily flights at Long Beach Air­port from 35 to 23 this fall to “bet­ter meet the needs of the mar­ket.”

In Jan­uary, Hunt­ing­ton Beach cre­ated the Air Traf­fic Noise Work­ing Group, a panel of com­mu­nity mem­bers, coun­cil mem­bers, city staff mem­bers and ex­perts, to ex­am­ine air­plane traf­fic and noise and es­tab­lish talks with avi­a­tion of­fi­cials. The group pre­sented its re­search and find­ings at a com­mu­nity meet­ing in June.

“Our top pri­or­ity for the Air Traf­fic Noise Work­ing Group was [for] in­bound flights to Long Beach to fly higher in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, and it ap­pears we’re mov­ing in a di­rec­tion where the FAA will sup­port that and im­ple­ment that,” said Bren­den, a mem­ber of the group.

An an­nounce­ment may be made in com­ing months, he added. Rohrabacher this year also pro­posed four amend­ments to the FAA’s an­nual reau­tho­riza­tion bill that he said would ease air­craft noise in Or­ange County.

The amend­ments failed on a vote by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Rohrabacher, who is seek­ing re­elec­tion in Novem­ber, com­mended JetBlue on Thurs­day for “lis­ten­ing and tak­ing ac­tion” to ad­dress the con­cerns of res­i­dents liv­ing un­der flight paths.

“Air­port noise un­der­mines the qual­ity of life of too many Amer­i­cans, es­pe­cially in Or­ange County,” Rohrabacher said in a state­ment. “JetBlue to­day has put it­self on the side of peo­ple mak­ing rea­son­able re­quests.”

Rick Maiman As­so­ci­ated Press

JETBLUE says it will retro­fit its Air­bus planes with noise-re­duc­ing vor­tex gen­er­a­tors, mark­ing a vic­tory for Hunt­ing­ton Beach res­i­dents tired of jet noise.

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