New JWA departure patterns disturb residents around Newport Bay

Susan Menning has lived in the Bluffs neighborhood next to Upper Newport Bay for 23 years, accepting some noise that comes with living less than five miles from John Wayne Airport.

But new departure paths implemented this spring have planes turning left just as they lift off, not staying over the bay as they did before. And that shift a few hundred feet from the water and closer to homes is too much for Menning, especially when the morning takeoff rush starts at about 7.

“It’s a horrible way to wake up,” she said.

The flight path alterations are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Southern California Metroplex project. The FAA says the new air traffic system covering the region’s airports, including John Wayne, will shore up inefficiencies, saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions and flight delays.

A resident-organized online petition directed toward the FAA, the airlines that operate at John Wayne, and city and county officials had more than 900 signatures as of Friday. Many people attached comments about the noise, concerns about property values and resale ability, and complaints that the planes might be dropping black residue on their patio furniture and cars, which they fear could be hazardous to their health.

Many vented their frustration and pleas for relief:

“I have lived in the Bluffs for 34 years and never complained about noise before, but it’s really starting to bother us.”

“The planes have destroyed my quality of life.”

“Do the right thing. Keep planes over the water, not our homes.”

“Please go back to the previous noise abatement measures.”

“The new flight paths that are allowed are ruining our lives. We cannot have a conversation! Please fix this! Thank you!”

“My neighborhood sounds like a war zone.”

“So tired of the planes.”

Newport Beach, later joined by Orange County, sued the FAA last year challenging the accuracy and efficacy of the agency’s environmental assessment of the Metroplex project, which concluded there would be no significant effects on surrounding communities.

Other coastal Orange County cities report feeling Metroplex-related pain. Laguna Beach filed its own lawsuit over the John Wayne routes. And new landing patterns for Long Beach Airport have disturbed Huntington Beach residents.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, who maintains a regularly updated page on the city website with airport concerns, said he works on the airport issue three or four days a week, if not daily.

Kiff said the new path that heads to points east of Las Vegas is too far west. The path that heads to the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest is too far east, he said.

He understands residents’ irritation but urges patience. He said readjusting the new paths could affect arrivals at Los Angeles, Long Beach and Ontario. The Metroplex project covers 23 Southern California airports.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain, doesn’t mean individuals shouldn’t contact the FAA,” he said. “But we are just one of the 23.”

Joe August, another longtime Bluffs resident, said he and neighbors take readings standing outside their homes with handheld sound meters and compare findings: 95 or 96 decibels.

The aircraft noise between their neighborhood and the airport has daytime limits of about 90 to 94 decibels for most commercial planes, as measured by airport monitors. August thinks pilots might turn closer to the homes, and away from the monitors, to keep the official readings low.

“If they put a sound monitor on top of my house, they’d be breaking the regs,” he said.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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