Skip to main content

Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal (1973)

Last Updated: 2006

Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal (1973) concerns an ordinance passed by the City of Burbank, California, prohibiting jet aircraft from taking off from the city’s airport between the hours of eleven P.M. and seven A.M. The city enacted the legislation to protect its residents from unwanted noise. A closely divided Supreme Court held the ordinance invalid because Congress had preempted state and local control over aircraft noise by its passage of the 1958 Federal Aviation Act (giving the national government sovereignty over airspace) and the 1972 Noise Control Act (which sets noise emission standards for a wide variety of product categories, and specifically targets aircraft noise and sonic booms). According to Justice William O. Douglas, curfews such as the one enacted by the City of Burbank increase airport congestion, cause a loss of efficiency, and aggravate the noise problem. Therefore, because there is need for efficient control of air traffic, only the Federal Aviation Administration, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, may regulate the subject of aircraft noise. The pervasive nature of the scheme of federal regulation of aircraft leaves no room for state or local regulation.

SEE ALSO: Commerce among the StatesHines v. DavidowitzPennsylvania v. NelsonPreemptionSouthern Railway Company v. ReidSupremacy Clause: Article VI, Clause 2


William W. Bratton, “The Preemption Doctrine: Shifting Perspectives on Federalism and the Burger Court,” Columbia Law Review 75, no. 3 (1975): 623–54; William Natbony, “City of Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, Inc.: Federal Preemption of Aircraft Noise Regulation and the Future of Proprietary Restrictions Comment,” New York University Review of Law and Social Change 4, no. 1 (1974): 99–114; and R. A. G., Jr., “Shifting Aircraft Noise Liability to the Federal Government,” Virginia Law Review 61, no. 6 (1975): 1299–1337.