Ontario Airport Chief Makes Noise About Stopovers : Regulations: Says refueling practice is another case of Orange County unloading its problems elsewhere. John Wayne Airport manager says she's heard no complaints.


Ontario International Airport Manager Michael Digirolamo said Wednesday a decision by several airlines to stop for refueling there in order to take off more quietly from John Wayne Airport is another example of how Orange County transfers its problems elsewhere.

"We're getting dumped on by Orange County again," he said. "We're kind of upset about it."

The unscheduled stops came to light this week when Seattle-based Alaska Airlines officials admitted that they were landing Seattle and Portland-bound flights there for refueling after taking off from John Wayne. The purpose was to comply with Orange County's noise restrictions--the heavier the plane, the more engine thrust is needed at liftoff.

On Wednesday, Digirolamo said that other airlines occasionally refuel at Ontario too, including Trans World Airlines, whose officials could not be reached for comment.

Most airlines, however, bump passengers or reduce seat sales to shed takeoff weight at John Wayne.

Digirolamo said Ontario shouldn't have to adopt noise limits because of extra air traffic generated by Orange County.

"It also affects our ability to use our capacity for passenger service here," he said. "During the refueling stops these airlines are not picking up any of our passengers. They just stop and go."

Because Orange County bars cargo jets from using John Wayne, Ontario is already being used to satisfy much of Orange County's air freight needs, Digirolamo said.

It's one thing to do this for north Orange County passengers and freight, which is close by, he added. But some of Ontario's air traffic is coming from southern Orange County too, only because Orange County is pushing its air traffic problems on surrounding counties.

Earlier this year, officials in San Bernardino and Riverside counties complained that Orange County was trying to dump its airport and jail overcrowding problems on its neighbors because of proposals to locate new Orange County facilities in their areas.

But Orange County officials have argued that urban problems are regional and deserve regional solutions.

John Wayne Airport Manager Jan Mittermeier, on her second day in that post, said Wednesday that she would not respond to Digirolamo's comments because he had not complained directly to her or other Orange County officials.

"He'll have to talk to us if he has a problem," Mittermeier said.

Meanwhile, county and Federal Aviation Administration officials said it was not within their jurisdictions to restrict airlines from making unscheduled stops on their routes.

"We don't handle that," said FAA spokeswoman Elly Brekke. "There are no regulations I know of that affect this."

That is little solace to passengers such as Kathleen Bernauer of Newport Beach, who said Wednesday that on a recent TWA flight to St. Louis, the crew did not announce the stopover in Ontario until the plane had left the gate.

"I asked them if they were going to hold our connecting flights for us," Bernauer said, "and the reply was, 'No, we don't do that.' "

Bernauer said she later applied by telephone for extra frequent flier miles because of the stopover in Ontario. "They flat out denied that TWA does this (refueling stops)," she explained. "They didn't believe me. That really ticks you off and it makes me very determined to fly other airlines."

Another passenger who contacted The Times said that on a Sept. 4 flight to St. Louis, TWA's pilot announced that, because of head winds, they might have to stop for fuel somewhere, provoking sarcastic banter among passengers about over which city or state the plane would run out of fuel.

Alaska Airlines officials said they began notifying pre-booked passengers in advance about the Ontario stopover a few days ago. The stopover is expected to be eliminated when a new time period for measuring airport noise begins Oct. 1.

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