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Newport Beach

Letter to the Editor:

Are small jets skirting the JWA intended agreement?

John Wayne Airport has been quietly expanding its service options under our noses, and the upshot is an ever-increasing number of smaller, less regulated jet flights. While this will benefit a small minority of passengers around Orange County, that comes at a potentially profound environmental cost, and the residents of Newport Beach and other impacted communities – who had no idea this expansion was going on – will have to cope with the noise and pollution.

My wife and I often walk along the trail in the Back Bay in Newport Beach. We’ve become accustomed to the noise as planes take off from JWA. Recently as we were walking, I became aware that in addition to the usual disruption, there was a new kind of jet that I had not really noticed in the past. In fact, before I saw any commercial jets, there were at least five of these small jets taking off in a row. It prompted me to question why there were so many, and how that relates to the recent changes being considered for the John Wayne Airport. With the help of some friends in the industry, and others who use these jets to save money, here is what I learned:

In 1985, Newport Beach, local community groups and the County entered into an agreement meant to curb noise and establish a curfew. At that time there were no “general aviation” (recreational and private transport) jets at JWA except small Cessna-type planes. Therefore, no one could have anticipated what is happening today. Far from the handful of small, privately owned jets that used the airport three decades ago, today, 55 general aviation jets fly in and out of JWA daily. These jets have full freedom to fly outside of the curfew, and only need to meet the outdated 1985 noise requirements. In effect, these flights double the noise and pollution, and do so with none of the regulations involved in a normal airport expansion.

JWA, these carriers, and a small subset of passengers benefit from this service expansion and my neighbors and I must pay the cost in terms of quality of life. In the meantime, the scheme is not in keeping with the spirit of the original agreement. Jet planes with regularly scheduled flights can be booked. By definition, general aviation does not include regularly scheduled flights. I believe a jet airline that sells tickets in a passenger jet has entered into a commercial relationship and therefore should not operate at JWA unless they compete for one of the approved commercial slots. They should use current terminal facilities, screening and TSA that is in place. This new around the backdoor process is wrong, and in my mind illegal when considering the current agreement signed in 1985 and subsequently amended.   

The Orange County Supervisors are responsible to the communities impacted by the JWA. They need to redefine general aviation to meet the intent of the use and not allow these passenger jets with commercial type flights. This would make the County Supervisor’s upcoming decision easy on the construction of a new general aviation terminal. There is no new terminal or TSA necessary when the corporate jet flies their CEO to a meeting. The upcoming county decision should not just be about the profit of the airport when the quality of life of county residents are impacted. 

I look to the county, cities, local groups and environmental groups to sort out this problem and ensure proper usage of our airport with the best possible quality of life to impacted residents. The County Supervisors may not be considering the expansion of the General Aviation Facility if they were to fully evaluate the types of small jets currently operating under the guise of General Aviation. 

Lee Pearl

Newport Beach

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