Orange County supervisors Tuesday signaled support for a plan to revamp the smaller plane part of John Wayne Airport after hours of appeals from residents who fear more traffic and noise pollution.
The supervisors want to revamp the part of the airport that services smaller aircraft such as prop planes and corporate jets. The tentative plan that was approved on Tuesday will be finalized by county staff for the board to consider approving at its May 21 meeting.
The action came after Supervisor Michelle Steel’s proposal failed with the rest of the board voting no. Steel’s proposal was the same as the one backed by the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa city councils.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley urged the board to adopt the proposal Steel backed, but also suggested county officials spend more time studying the expansion of the airport as Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, has also recommended.
“My constituents are worried about more noise, more traffic and more pollution and about bigger, louder jets squeezing out smaller airplanes,” Steel said.
However, board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett and Supervisor Don Wagner argued that the county staff’s recommendation was best because providing more space for pilots to park their planes at the airport would actually reduce the number of flights to and from the airport.
They argued that the growth of corporate flying and “Ubers in the sky,” without the hangar space prompts pilots to airport hop in the region and end up boosting how often they come and go.
“Even if you take 11 jets out of the airport those corporate executives are still coming to the airport, and they’re going to get picked up and now you’ve doubled the amount of takeoffs and landings,” Bartlett said. “The number of jets might reduce but the number of takeoffs and landings will expand.”
Bartlett argued that corporate jet owners won’t drive to Chino, Ontario or Long Beach to get their plane. They will just have the plane come to them, she said.
“The chair is correct when she says there will be fewer of those jet flights if more of them are housed in Newport Beach. It’s just math,” Wagner said. “Let’s be realistic. They’re not driving to Long Beach or Chino. They’re calling the plane from Chino and Long Beach and that’s four flights now instead of two.”
Supervisor Andrew Do came up with a compromise between the two proposals that would provide more hangars for the small prop planes to handle increasing demand in that category, but keeps the levels of jet planes and turbo prop aircraft at 2016 numbers.
Do blended in the county staff’s favored design, which would place the two major Fixed-Base Operators on different ends of the airport, one on the east and one on the west. This will eliminate the towing of planes across the runaway as the FBOs are now on the east side and the hangars are on the west.
“That’s just a terrible system,” Do told City News Service. “We need to move ahead to revitalize the facilities at John Wayne Airport. These facilities are 30, 40 years old. There’s no reason we should tolerate hangars that are leaking and rusted through.”