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John Wayne Airport initiative aims to reduce pollution, noise made by private jets

JWA Director Charlene Reynolds Wednesday announces the launch of a new "Fly Friendly" program at John Wayne Airport.
John Wayne Airport Director Charlene Reynolds Wednesday announces the launch of a new “Fly Friendly” program designed to minimize noise and environmental impacts from general aviation jet aircraft.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A new effort at John Wayne Airport aims to make the skies a little friendlier for the environment and for nearby Orange County residents by incentivizing private jet operators to take quieter routes and engage in sustainable practices.

Airport officials joined with county leaders in a news conference Wednesday to announce the launch of “Fly Friendly,” a data-driven initiative that will monitor and score participants on their flight behaviors and engagement in community efforts related to sustainability and aviation impacts.

“Fly Friendly is an education and outreach program designed to minimize noise and environmental impacts from general aviation, or private use, jet aircraft,” airport director Charlene Reynolds said. “[JWA] will celebrate operators demonstrating the highest level of commitment to this program through an awards initiative.”

County Supervisor Katrina Foley speaks at a news conference for a new "Fly Friendly" program at John Wayne Airport.
County Supervisor Katrina Foley on Wednesday shows a flight path map indicating a departure route that, when traveled, pushes jet engine noise away from residential areas and out over the Pacific Ocean.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, whose District 5 shares part of JWA’s territory with District 2, represented by Katrina Foley, explained several officials and aviation industry associations collaborated in a working group to develop the campaign. She encouraged private jet operators to volunteer for the program.

“It’s important for the pilots to remember that when they fly in and out of John Wayne Airport, they’re not just landing at the airport, they are entering our beautiful community,” Bartlett said. “Many people live in close proximity to the airport and are very sensitive to the noise from incoming and departing aircraft.”

Foley explained when John Wayne officials sat down with local elected officials and community members in 1985 to draft a settlement agreement imposing annual passenger caps, curfews and other restrictions on commercial flight operations, the process did not include general aviation travel, such as private business or single-engine flights.

County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett speaks during a news conference at the John Wayne Airport administration offices.
County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett speaks Wednesday during a news conference at the John Wayne Airport administration offices.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Traffic and noise generated by such flights have since then been on the rise, potentially creating new impacts to residential communities situated under the airport’s flight path.

Foley showed a flight path map indicating a specific departure route that, when traveled, pushes jet engine noise away from residential areas and out over the Pacific, where fewer effects are felt. While its use is recommended, many private jet pilots do not know about it.

“The Fly Friendly program fills the gap where the settlement agreement does not apply to general aviation,” she said at the county press conference. “It is really focused on educating our pilots.”

The program scores operators who sign up in multiple categories. While data systems will determine quietest departures and rate nighttime noise reduction, other categories — such as “environmental stewardship and sustainability” and “most engaging” — will track pilots’ involvement in community efforts, like local meetings about aviation impacts and environmental advocacy campaigns.

Elected officials plant a coast live oak in a ceremony at Newport Beach's Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.
Supervisor Katrina Foley, from right, Airport Commissioner Sue Dvorak, Lisa Swanson, with the Surfrider Foundation and Newport Beach City Councilwoman Joy Brenner, plant a coast live oak in a ceremony at Newport Beach’s Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Jet operators who modify aircrafts for noise reduction, purchase quieter crafts or fly in accordance with procedures outlining the quietest general aviation departures and other noise abatement guidelines will receive “points.”

Similarly, general aviation pilots who demonstrate the greatest reduction in nighttime departures and arrivals, or who contribute up to $4,500 annually to ecological restoration campaigns being undertaken by the Newport Bay or Irvine Ranch conservancies to offset aircraft impacts will receive top marks and be publicly recognized by the Board of Supervisors and John Wayne Airport officials as outstanding.

Following Wednesday’s news conference, Foley and officials planted a native coast live oak tree at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center in Newport Beach to commemorate the program.

“By launching Fly Friendly, we are taking the first step to reduce noise and pollution caused by general aviation flights,” she said.

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