Sound Restrictions for Private Jets

When a jet airplane passing overhead is noisy enough to annoy and distract the people below, it makes no difference whether that environmental intrusion is being made by a commercial or private plane.

Fortunately, it appears that the Orange County Board of Supervisors is ready to officially recognize that by applying the sound restrictions that have so long governed commercial aircraft to noisy private jets.

And that's precisely what we urge the supervisors to do Tuesday, when they are scheduled to consider final action on an ordinance that will set sound limits for private jets using the county's John Wayne Airport. Its passage would reduce jet noise and add equity to the county effort to control noise.

The proposed ordinance, however, has its opponents. A spokesman for the National Business Aircraft Assn. has described some of the ordinance's provisions as "Draconian." The association's hyperbole is understandable considering that it represents 2,900 companies throughout the nation that own business aircraft and that the planes of some of the county's largest and most influential companies would be banned because they could not meet the new guidelines. But the law is not nearly as harsh or severe as it is fair and reasonable--and needed.

The aircraft association doesn't like the idea that private planes would be regulated on the basis of a one-time noise level measurement while commercial noise measurements are averaged over a three-month period. But the county reasoning makes sense; it has operating agreements with the commercial carriers using John Wayne. They are accountable. The long-term averaging wouldn't work to control transient pilots that use the airfield infrequently.

As operator of a public airfield, the county has a responsibility not only to the people who use the airport but to those who are affected by its use. That means enacting--and enforcing--reasonable sound levels that apply to all aircraft, commercial and private.

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