New Flight Plan Offered for Airport : Pilots Group Says Its Proposal Safer for John Wayne Use

Times Staff Writer

The 265,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. announced a new flight plan Monday for John Wayne Airport that it believes would provide greater safety than a plan proposed by the federal government, association spokesmen said.

Under the association's plan, airliners approaching from the coast would have to fly as far north as Yorba Linda before turning right for their final airport approach. Smaller private planes would not be required to be monitored by the radar tower unless they flew in this expanded airspace designated for commercial jet liners.

"Private aircraft can continue to operate to and from the airport without interfering with the airliners and without burdening controllers for clearances," said Scott Raphael, an attorney for the aircraft owners association, at a news conference in Newport Beach.

Federal OK Sought

He said the association hopes to get Federal Aviation Administration approval for its plan, which is designed to prevent air tragedies such as the Cerritos mid-air collision that killed 82 in 1986.

The FAA has tentatively proposed that all aircraft (private and commercial) be required to be tracked by radar before landing at John Wayne Airport, a proposal private pilots don't like.

Under the government's informal plan, an Airport Radar Surveillance Area (ARSA) would be created. It would involve a 10-mile-wide cylinder of restricted airspace requiring all aircraft approaching or departing from the airport area to obtain clearance from radar air traffic controllers.

The aircraft owners association believes that the FAA's proposal would require more radar traffic controllers (there is now a shortage of controllers at John Wayne) to handle a greater workload.

"We believe the (FAA's) proposal may actually be more dangerous than (our) plan because the FAA has not yet committed itself to hiring the minimum number of radar controllers required to provide an adequate level of ARSA surveillance safety," Raphael said.

The aircraft owner's association said that it will introduce its flight plan, referred to as the Santa Ana Special Flight Rules Area, at an FAA hearing scheduled tonight at 7 at the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center.

The FAA hearing will gather public comment on flight plans over John Wayne Airport. The public has until Aug. 30 to submit plans or other ideas, said Elly Brekke, an FAA spokeswoman in Los Angeles.

Fifth Busiest Airport

With more than 500,000 takeoffs and landings annually at John Wayne Airport, the airport has become the nation's fifth busiest in operations, prompting FAA concerns about congested air traffic.

"John Wayne is one of the airports with mixed commercial and private usage where more restriction is needed over airline traffic," Brekke said.

Michael Church, an association spokesman, said: "This plan would help where we've had potential conflicts of air carrier operations and private planes. We do not always mix well."

The airport's mixed use is a sensitive issue between the airlines that account for only 10% of the airport's operations, contrasted with 90% by corporate, business and private pilots.

Targets Commercial Flights

Edward Beauvais, chief executive officer for Phoenix-based America West Airlines, declined to comment on the plan because he has not reviewed it. But he indicated that the area's congestion was due to private pilots.

"Commercial aviation and flights are not the problem with air safety in that area," Beauvais said.

USAir, one of the busiest commuter airlines with 13 Bay Area flights into John Wayne Airport, withheld comment until the association's plan is reviewed, said Larry Picket, an airline spokesman in Los Angeles.

A decision will be made 60 days after the Aug. 30 deadline, Brekke said, and the FAA is scheduled to implement a new flight plan for the airport, possibly in a year.

Brekke said the association's argument that its plan would be safer, more efficient and more cost-effective is premature because the FAA has not formally drawn up a flight plan for John Wayne Airport.

"We do have a generic idea, and that is to use the ARSA. But not in this case. This is the FAA's first attempt to get input first before we design a flight plan," Brekke said.

In Orange County most of the jetliners en route to John Wayne Airport from the north enter Orange County airspace at about 5,000 feet as they cross the coast at Huntington Beach, near the Bolsa Chica wetlands. The jets descend to 4,000 feet as they pass over Santa Ana and make a right turn over Tustin for their final approach into John Wayne.

The jetliners communicate with air traffic controllers all the way in. But until they reach the interchange of the Santa Ana and Garden Grove freeways, the jets share airspace with small planes that do not have to be in two-way communication and do not have to be equipped with transponders, the electronic devices that help controllers track the planes on radar.

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