Flight pattern over Magnolia sputters again

A decade-long effort to shift nighttime Boeing Field-bound flights from over Magnolia to over Elliott Bay has stalled in the King County Executive's office, according to King County Council member Larry Phillips and Magnolia pilot Dan Labriola.
The planes - mostly cargo jets - currently use an Instrument Landing System (ILS) that takes the flights over an outer beacon next to the Admiral's House on the bluff above Smith Cove Park, Labriola explained.
And since the glide path for jets heading to Boeing Field is lower than the one for flights heading to Sea-Tac International Airport, the Boeing Field-bound flights lumber by just a few hundred feet above homes in Magnolia, he said.
The arrangement makes for a noisy intrusion, numerous neighborhood residents have complained over the years. It doesn't have to be that way, according to both Labriola and Phillips, who have both been bothered by the nighttime jet noise.
In contrast to an ILS system, a Localizer-type Directional Approach (LDA) installed at the airport would shift the Boeing Field traffic over Elliott Bay, Labriola said. "The LDA only moves that approach seven degrees," he added.
Staff members from the local Federal Aviation Administration office have objected informally to the LDA for a variety of reasons, according to Labriola.
"Ten years ago, they said it wasn't possible to send the beam over water," he said of one objection that proved to be untrue.
Then they said the LDA frequency wouldn't work, said Labriola, who added, "We made the frequency work." There were also objections that shifting flights over Elliott Bay would spark noise complaints from West Seattle, he said.
A noise study of jets using GPS to land at Boeing Field proved that wasn't so, according to Labriola. That's significant because, while relatively few jets now use a GPS navigation system, the GPS flight path is approximately the same flight path pilots would follow using the LDA approach, he said.
The latest objection is that the LDA system would cause problems for Sea-Tac's third runway. "That was all looked at and determined not to be a problem," Labriola said.
So what's the problem? Labriola speculates that King County Executive Ron Sims doesn't want to see the LDA system used because more flights can land at Boeing Field using the old ILS system, and more flights means more money for the county.
Phillips, for his part, is also puzzled. "It's been very frustrating on this issue for a long time," he said, adding the sticking point is a lack of support from the county executive.
"Sims can make the request to take the next step," said Phillips, who is exploring the possibility of a run for Sims' seat.
Indeed, the FAA hasn't taken any action on the issue because the agency has "never received any formal request from King County to evaluate or consider the development of the LDA approaches ...," confirmed Allen Kenitzer, communications and media relations manager for the regional FAA office.
Phillips has tried going through channels and sent a June 5 e-mail requesting an update on the LDA approach to Harold Taniguchi, director of the King County Department of Transportation.
"Our government has invested significant resources in pursuing LDA approach implementation, and I believe it is high time to move forward," Phillips wrote.
Taniguchi replied a few days later, saying the follow-up to Phillips' request would be handled by the office of Kurt Triplett, Sims' chief of staff. Triplett had not responded to Phillips as of last weekend, the county councilmember said.
Triplett also did not respond to several calls for comment from the News.[[In-content Ad]]