Officials against noise rule change
AIRPORT: Councilmembers vow to fight any changes to noise ordinance.
By Joe Segura, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH - Two City Council members on Monday vowed to fight any efforts by JetBlue Airways to alter the airport noise ordinance to allow for more commercial flights.
Fourth District Councilman Patrick O'Donnell and 8th District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich - whose districts border the airport - said they will oppose the plan when it goes to the full council.
JetBlue on April 7 showcased its new Embraer E190 aircraft. They're smaller than the Airbus A320 now used in Long Beach, but are too heavy to meet the weight requirements to be considered for commuter flights at the airport.
The Embraer aircraft weigh approximately 115,000 pounds each, and the requirement at the Long Beach Airport for commuter planes is 75,000 pounds or less. That is a point of contention for JetBlue's CEO Dave Barger, who hopes the City Council changes the requirements so these planes can fly in the commuter slots.
JetBlue is the prime tenant at the L.B. Airport with 28 of the airport's 41 daily commercial flight slots. The airport also has 25 commuter slots, but only 15 are in use.
If the nod is given, JetBlue could use its new Embraer E190 aircraft to three new cities beginning in May.
O'Donnell warned that any change to the ordinance would destroy protections it now provides.
"If you change it, you lose it," he said Monday.
Gabelich said that while JetBlue might introduce a better- model commuter aircraft, other airlines coming in under an ordinance change might not be as quiet.
"We're going to stand by the noise ordinance," she said.
O'Donnell, the chair of the council's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called for a hearing on April 29 at 3:45 p.m. in City Hall chambers, 333 W. Ocean Blvd. He wants to send the matter to the full council.
"I fear this proposal would shatter our noise ordinance, lead to more aircraft flights, and reduce the quality of life for airport-impacted residents," O'Donnell said in a statement.
O'Donnell said he discussed the matter with City Manager Pat West and that West told him that no formal plans for more commercial flights have been submitted by JetBlue.
However, Barger, who could not be reached for comment Monday, showcased the new aircraft April 7 at the airport, where the airline plans new flights to San Jose, Seattle and Austin starting next month.
The new daily flights - one to Austin starting May 1, two to Seattle starting May 15 and three to San Jose starting May 21 - will use six of JetBlue's 28 commercial slots.
"My message to the people of Long Beach is that this aircraft is light, quiet and fuel-efficient," Barger said April 7. "By putting these in the commuter slots, it would be good for the community to give residents more travel options."
Alison Eshelman, a spokeswoman for JetBlue, said the new flights would give passengers in the area more options at lower prices, adding the new aircraft are environmentally friendly.
"It's lighter and quieter, and - fuelwise - it's more efficient," she added.