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    News in Depth

    FAA-Sponsored Study Puts LB Airport on Nat'l List It Contends Will Need Add'l Capacity By 2013 & 2020

    (Breaking: June 24, 2004) -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a study, sponsored by the agency, that lists LB Airport among 15 airports nationwide that the agency contends will require additional capacity by 2013...even if capacity improvements now being considered are implemented.

    The study, entitled "Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System," and performed for the FAA by the MITRE Corp., also contends that the L.A. Basin metropolitan area will need additional capacity by 2013...and contends further that both LB Airport and the L.A. Basin metropolitan area will need still more by 2020. has learned that while the study was in preparation, representatives of the FAA and its study contractor met with LB Airport management -- including LB Airport Manager Chris Kunze and Airport Special Projects Manager Christine Edwards -- on what Ms. Edwards said resembled a fact-finding type meeting. (The FAA study mentions what it calls "coordination" meetings with affected airports during this period, further below).

    Ms. Edwards told that during the meeting, Mr. Kunze [currently on vacation, unavailable for comment] and she reiterated the City of LB's publicly stated position that it intends to accommodate flights permitted under LB's noise budgeted flight slot ordinance. Ms. Edwards said the meeting also discussed LB Airport terminal improvements now under discussion locally; the FAA and its study contractor discussed the study's structure, the types of analyses being done, modeling and the like but didn't discuss study results or provide any preview or other immediate response.

    Neither preliminary results of the study which became public in March, nor the FAA's complete study released today, make any explicit reference to or acknowledgment of LB's court-approved flight slot ordinance or to City Hall's policy of accommodating all authorized flights under it, currently 66 per day: 41 aircraft over 75,000 pounds (now filled) + 25 under 75,000 pounds (currently unfilled).

    LB's Airport Noise Compatibility Ordinance, which has been approved by a federal court, differs from others and is considered one of the nation's most progressive by tying increased flights to noise budgets, providing an incentive for quieter aircraft.

    In an introduction to the FAA study, the Bush administration's FAA administrator, Marion C. Blakey, declares in part, "The Governmentís most significant and challenging role in this dynamic environment is to examine where the requirements are and to work for the development of the infrastructure and capacity to accommodate whatever level and type of demand the market may bring."

    The FAA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, is budgeted and ultimately controlled by Congress.

    The FAA study puts LGB among 15 airports it contends will need capacity in 2013...even if capacity improvements now being considered are implemented:

    • Oakland Metro Int'l (OAK)
    • Burbank(BUR)
    • Long Beach (LGB)
    • OC John Wayne (SNA)
    • Tucson Int'l (TUS)
    • Albuquerque Int'l (ABQ)
    • San Antonio Int'l (SAT)
    • Houston Hobby (HOU)
    • Chicago OíHare Int'l (ORD)
    • NYC LaGuardia (LGA)
    • NYC Kennedy Int'l (JFK)
    • Newark Int'l (EWR)
    • Philadelphia Int'l (PHL)
    • Palm Beach Int'l (PBI)
    • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int'l (FLL).

    The FAA study also contends that seven metropolitan areas -- including the Los Angeles Basin -- will need additional capacity by 2013: SF Bay, L.A. Basin, Tucson, Austin-San Antonio, Chicago, New York Metro and South Florida.

    The study further claims that additional capacity will also be needed at LB Airport, OC Airport, Burbank and Ontario and in the L.A. Basin metropolitan area by 2020

    The FAA study says additional capacity is needed today at airports in Atlanta (ATL), Newark (EWR), NYC's LaGuardia (LGA), Chicago OíHare (ORD) and Philadelphia (PHL). It added that the Atlanta metro area also needs additional capacity.

    Administrator Blakey said the agency's study takes a "new approach" by "comparing demand and capacity levels not only at airports, but in metropolitan areas as well to determine where future capacity constraints may emerge. This will underscore the importance of continuing the investment plans now in place in order to be ready for future airport capacity demands. We do this with the conviction that if we provide accurate data and credible forecasts, communities around the country will step up to the plate. They need to help make sure they have a dynamic place in our aviation system -- one that provides such vital support for our Nationís economy and social fabric."

    In its Executive Summary, the study says:

    This study was undertaken because the Federal Aviation Administration wanted to assure that the long-term capacity of the aviation system matched forecasts of demand. It is important to look not only at individual airports in the longer term, but also at the infrastructure of the airport network to ensure sufficient capacity to meet that demand. To that end, two basic questions were asked by the FAA:

  • Which of the 35 Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) airports will be able to meet future demand and which will not and why?

  • Besides the 35 OEP airports, will there be other geographic areas of the country unable to accommodate demand for air transportation?
  • The agency says that in March 2003, it assembled a team to answer develop answers to these questions. "The team, led by the Airports organization (ARP), and including representatives of the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and the MITRE Corporation [McClean, VA] Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD), began the Future Airport Capacity Task (FACT), an assessment of the future capacity of the nationís airports and metropolitan areas. The goal of the Future Airport Capacity Task was to determine which airports may need additional capacity in the future and why."

    The study described its OEP as 10-year plan to increase the capacity and efficiency of the National Airspace System that "focuses on infrastructure - - primarily new runways - - and technological and procedural initiatives."

    "The Department of Transportation, under the leadership of [Transportation] Secretary Mineta, wants to ensure that the long-term capacity of the aviation system matches forecasts of demand," FAA Administrator Blakey says in her introduction.

    The study describes in only summary verbiage its meetings with two dozen affected airports (presumably including LGB):

    In January and February 2004 the FACT analysis was coordinated with each of the airports identified as needing additional capacity in the future, some 24 airport sponsors in total. We wanted to provide each facility with the assumptions we used regarding fleet mix, runway configuration and any constraints or limitations to the operational flexibility of the airport. In most cases, the airports agreed with our assumptions, while others thought we were overly aggressive particularly with the longer-term enhancements. In those cases, we adjusted our assumptions to be more in line with those of the airport. Although each coordination meeting with the airports was different, there were several common issues that were repeated from airport to airport. While these will not be specifically discussed here, a summary of these commonalities follows:

    • Airfield is not necessarily the limiting factor. Terminal Buildings limit the number of annual passengers, which in turn limits the number of operations. If terminals could be expanded, operations may increase placing an additional burden on the airfield.
    • General Aviation. Many of the airports that we visited had a significant general aviation (GA) operation. In many cases these are "high end" GA, business jet type aircraft that typically use the main air carrier runway rather than a shorter GA runway. A fast growing segment of the GA community is the fractional ownership of aircraft. Since there may be several owners of such an aircraft the number of operations may increase at a much greater rate than based aircraft. These fractional ownership aircraft are also high end GA, and may be as large as the Boeing 737 Business Jet.
    • Airspace limitations. The ability of the airspace around many of the airports to accommodate more arrivals and departures may be limited, especially where several major airports are in the same area (Southern California, Northern California, New York/Philadelphia, and Southern Florida). Enroute airspace congestion may also impose departure delays. In other cases, operational flexibility may be affected by nearby military airspace or environmentally sensitive areas.
    • Roadway limitations. As airports are gaining additional passengers and traffic, particularly the smaller commercial service airports, a limiting factor is the offairport roadway network. The roads leading into the airports are not able to accommodate this increase in surface traffic without congestion. At some airports the curb frontage and adjacent through lanes are not adequate for passenger dropoff and pick-up. New TSA regulations have also limited the curb frontage at many of the smaller airports.

    The full FAA study can be found in pdf form on the agency's web site at

    In its findings in brief, the study said:

  • As air traffic levels continue to grow over time, it is well known that the additional demands placed upon the NAS will strain the systemís capacity. However, the FACT analysis shows that even today there are areas in the NAS where additional capacity is needed, and these needs will grow even stronger as traffic levels continue to increase. Based upon this study, it is expected that approximately 5 percent of the nearly 300 airports analyzed will require additional capacity by either 2013 or 2020.

  • This study indicates that airports other than the top 35 tracked by the FAAís current OEP will potentially need additional capacity in the future. As more detailed studies are performed at those airports, it may be shown that they warrant inclusion in the OEP to better track planned improvements over time.

  • Growth trends will continue to affect many of the same metropolitan areas that historically have had a need for additional capacity. This study indicates that the predominant trend over the next two decades largely will be the expansion of existing airports to meet forecast demand. At the same time, new metropolitan areas have emerged as needing additional capacity in the future. These metropolitan areas are mostly in the south and southwest. Increases in air traffic congestion in some metropolitan areas, however, may lead to the establishment of new supplemental airports such as the proposed Ivanpah airport near Las Vegas, NV and the proposed South Suburban Airport near Chicago, IL. (A replacement airport at San Diego, CA may also be a possibility.)
  • The study concluded:

  • The predominant trend over the next two decades largely will be the expansion of existing airports to meet forecast demand. Because of the long lead times necessary to bring large complex runway projects on line, current improvement plans must move forward to keep pace with demand forecast for 2013. If the planned improvements do not occur for any reason, the number of airports experiencing capacity shortages will grow sharply.

  • The long lead times also necessary to move research out of the lab and into the field, to equip aircraft with the latest technologies, and to implement procedural changes require that this vital work move forward to address future demand/capacity mismatches in 2013 and 2020.

  • This study focused on three distinct time periods: 2003, 2013 and 2020. Although some airports do not meet the criteria for needing additional capacity in the time periods studied, it is possible that they would meet the criteria in intermediate years (prior to the implementation of the improvements considered in this report). In other words, some airports not meeting these criteria until 2020 may actually reach that state as early as 2014. This highlights the need to press ahead with development plans.

  • Even planned improvements will not be sufficient at some locations. Therefore, plans for capacity enhancements, including new runways and, in limited cases, new airports must continue and more new runways must be planned.

  • Ambitious assumptions were made for improvements projected for 2020; some of these improvements may not materialize and even these assumed improvements will not be sufficient at some locations. Most importantly, the majority of the assumed improvements in 2020 do not have formal plans associated with them.

    This makes it ever more important to begin to formalize capacity improvement plans for the 2020 timeframe.

    Additional analyses are necessary to develop possible solutions for the identified airports; this is particularly true for the non-OEP airports in order to gain a better understanding of their capabilities, operations, and local regulations.

  • For all the airports, detailed feedback and information obtained through discussions with them will need to be incorporated into future iterations of this study. Solutions beyond those considered here, including policy options, need to be explored.

  • In addition to new runways and airports, procedures, technologies, and policy options should be explored.

  • The FAA must manage its budget and programs responsibly to ensure that the development of new technological improvements remains on track.
  • Reaction is pending as we post.

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