(August 12, 2004) -- As first reported by LBReport.com, residents in ELB and Cal Heights were rattled on Wednesday night August 11 when an unscheduled closure of the airport's main runway diverted large jets onto shorter runway 25R starting shortly after 9 p.m.
We now know why: "a construction related temporary lighting outage on the main runway" said LB Airport. That snafu shut down the main runway at about 9:00 p.m...and sent large jets onto Runway 25R.
Runway 25R -- which is nearly 3/4 of a mile shorter than the main LB runway -- has an approach that stretching over miles of homes from roughly El Dorado Park to the airport between Wardlow Rd and Carson St. 25R's take off path goes over roughly 36th St. in residential Cal Heights.
LB Airport says that 9:25 p.m. until 11:00 p.m., there were five arrivals of ELB and three departures over Cal Heights. After 11:00 p.m., there were three arrivals over ELB (two on Aug. 11, one at about 3:27 a.m. on Aug. 12) and three departures over Cal Heights.
The last arriving flight, by JetBlue, left NYC six hours late...and thus arrived in LB in the predawn hours.
The flights between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. may be noise ordinance violations (discretionary with LB Airport management if the carrier cites a sufficient weather reason). The ones after 11 p.m. are presumably automatic ordinance violations. If applicable to JetBlue, they could trigger fines of either $3,000 per flight (or perhaps $6,000 if the carrier accumulated several in one quarter)...and if applicable would be payable to the LB Library Foundation under a misdemeanor noise ordinance plea agreement negotiated by the City Prosecutor's office. The plea agreement sum is several times the amount that could be imposed under the noise ordinance alone.
So what accounted for the late flights? "Unusual weather conditions throughout Florida and along parts of the eastern coast [i.e. building storms and hurricanes],"
said LB Airport.
Meanwhile, much of City Hall's phone system -- including LB Airport -- became inoperable that night and was blocked until about 10:00 a.m. on August 12. Ms. Diggs-Jackson noted that the outage affected many parts of City Hall -- not just the Airport -- and apparently involved some kind of new voice mail system. After that was ironed out about 10:00 a.m., "our phones began ringing off the hook," Ms. Diggs-Jackson said.
Meanwhile, LBReport.com began receiving emails from ELB and Cal Heights residents, fuming at the 25R diversions.
From ELB: "I registered an e-mail complaint but just want to point out to you the danger of allowing big jets to use that short runway. What was once supposedly only to happen on 7 Saturday's, now happens more frequently...Give them an inch and they take a mile."
From Cal Hts: "Several planes - large commercial jets - took off directly over my home this evening @ 11:00 pm. This is in direct violation of agreed upon noise ordinances and previously agreed upon airport construction plans. In fact, no commercial aircraft should be scheduled after 10:00 pm any evening. In addition no commercial jetliner should be taking off/landing on this runway- with the exception of the agreed upon Saturday construction times...
As a resident of California Heights I must have some assuracces that this dangerous practice of take offs from this short runway will not become routine- or as residents and voters, we will have to take further action."
Runway 25R is usually used mainly by smaller aircraft with noise levels to match, as provided in LB's Airport noise ordinance. When the main runway has an emergency closure (or for the scheduled weekend repaving), large jets are diverted onto 25R.
Some ELB residents are so disturbed about the recent diversions onto 25R that dayglow orange signs have begun popping up for the first time in part of the 5th Council district, stating "Say NO to Airport Expansion."