Residents upset over a Fullerton City Council decision that allows some small jets to land at the municipal airport began Monday to drum up support for a write-in campaign to elect one of their own.
"We are going to prove that we can beat City Hall," write-in candidate Carl R. Stevenson told a gathering of about 75 residents Monday night in Fullerton.
Critics concerned about air traffic safety told the audience that the skies over the Southland are overcrowded with traffic from 29 airports and that the Federal Aviation Administration has not acted to improve air safety.
"Citizens can make a difference," said Denise Guzman, a Whittier resident who lost five relatives in the recent midair collision of an Aeromexico jetliner and a small private plane over Cerritos.
Other speakers included Water Goode, vice president of Citizens United for Flight Safety, and Steven Bodman, a former FAA investigator and air traffic controller.
"The force for safety improvements will have to come from civic groups" because the government refuses to adopt more safety measures, Bodman said at the meeting held at the city's Senior Citizens Center.
Also in attendance was a representative of Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), who said the congressman has reintroduced a bill to require collision avoidance equipment in virtually all aircraft.
The controversy over the municipal airport flared Oct. 1, when hundreds of residents packed the City Council chambers to protest opening the airfield to a limited number of jets.
Increased noise and congestion, as well as the potential for midair collisions, has prompted residents to demand less air traffic, said Steve Goodyear, an organizer of jet opponents.
Goodyear said they are also backing Armand Victoria, one of five candidates seeking the seats of Mayor A. B. (Buck) Catlin and Councilwoman Molly McClanahan, who are running for reelection.
Goodyear said before the meeting that two other councilmen who voted for the jet landings, Richard C. Ackerman and Linda LeQuire, who are not facing reelection, may be the subject of a recall drive if airport opponents aren't successful in overturning the action. Councilman Chris Norby, the only member to vote against opening the airport to jets, was not targeted for removal.
Stevenson said residents are collecting signatures to force a special referendum election on the jet issue. About 5,700 signatures of registered voters must be gathered by the end of this month, he said.
Stevenson and Goodyear said airport foes eventually hope to win a majority on the council and modify the city's master plan to curtail traffic at the municipal airport.
City officials say that under the new provision, only one type of jet, the Citation 1, meets landing requirements for weight and noise limits.
Robert E. D. McNutt, president of the Fullerton Airport Pilots Assn., said the ordinance does not mean a significant change in airport use.
"As far as we know, there's only one guy that wants to bring in his Citation," he said. "They won't be coming in one after the other." The Citation 1, of which about 550 were built, is no longer in production and subsequent versions do not meet Fullerton's standards.
McNutt said the fears of jet opponents are fueled by the recent midair collision between the Aeromexico jet and a light plane over Cerritos, and the June 4 crash near the Fullerton airport that killed traffic reporter Bruce Wayne.
But those tragic accidents don't "necessarily mean that we have a faulty system," McNutt said.
And Sylvia L. Paoli, chairwoman of the Airport Users Task Force, said the real hazards have been "totally blown out of proportion" by residents.
Paoli added that airport traffic has slowed to 159,000 takeoffs and landings in 1985 from 255,000 in 1977. City officials say they do not see any possibility for further expansion.
"The airport is at its saturation point now," Paoli said.