Travelers head into the terminal area at John Wayne Orange County Airport. Photo by John Schreiber.
Travelers head into the terminal area at John Wayne Orange County Airport. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement that maintains curfews at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana through 2035, while also allowing more flights and passengers beginning a dozen years from now.

Supervisors John Moorlach, whose district includes the airport, and Todd Spitzer, who represents multiple cities affected by the flight paths, praised the deal, which extends a legal settlement of disputes regarding jet noise going back to 1985.

“The goal was to strike a proper balance between residents around the airport and the carriers using the airport,” Moorlach said.

Federal laws prohibit a reduction in capacity, and without an extension of the settlement agreement, county officials would lose the curfews, Moorlach and Spitzer said.

The 1985 settlement agreement was extended through 2030 with no change in the curfew until the end of 2035.

The curfew prohibits departures from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day with the exception of Sundays, when the curfew is from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Arrivals are prohibited between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 p.m. through 8 a.m. on Sundays.

A “gradual increase” will be allowed in the number of commercial flights and the level of passengers annually, according to county officials.

The airport is allowed 85 commercial daily flights and 10.8 million annual passengers. Those numbers will not change until Jan. 1, 2021, when 95 daily flights and 11.8 million annual passengers would be allowed.

Starting in 2026, the passenger levels will be allowed to increase again, with no change in the number of daily flights. The amount will depend on the average levels of flights and passengers in the preceding five years.

If the number of passengers between Jan. 1, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2025, is within 5 percent of 11.8 million annually, the amount of passengers may go up to 12.5 million annually through the end of 2030.

If, however, passenger levels do not reach 11.21 million annually in any year between 2021 and 2025,  the cap will be 12.2 million annually through the end of 2030.

Officials expect an average of 12.5 million annual passengers and 95 commercial daily flights in 2026 through 2030.

“This agreement goes a long way to protecting the 10.8 (million annual passengers level),” Spitzer said. “The point is this has always been about protecting the curfew.”

The county was “fortunate enough” to have a curfew in place before federal lawmakers in 1990 essentially “outlawed” curfews, Spitzer said.

“There’s a balance between controlling the airport capacity,” Spitzer said, “and the responsibility we have to the economic vitality of our county.”

Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill told the supervisors it was “truly a special day for Newport Beach and all of the corridor cities.”

County officials have been “great advocates for the impacted communities and we are so pleased you brought us to this day,” Hill said, adding that John Wayne Airport is “one of the best managed airports in the nation.”

Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry, who helped craft the agreement approved today while he was mayor, called it a “historic day.”

Curry added the deal was a “great compromise.”

City News Service

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