Newport Beach City Council declines to endorse most of the county’s plans for private aircraft

Crows and a smaller private plane fly over the runway at John Wayne Airport.
(File Photo)

As expected, the Newport Beach City Council backs only minimal changes to general aviation facilities at John Wayne Airport.

The council unanimously agreed Tuesday to direct the mayor to send a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors asking it to adopt a plan for private aircraft that keeps departure frequency the same and doesn’t add a proposed new terminal. The county owns and operates the airport.

The county, meanwhile, prefers an infrastructure enhancement plan that includes updated buildings and airfield roads to comply with current Federal Aviation Administration standards, as well as adding a terminal for noncommercial flights.

The proposed terminal — the airport currently has terminals only for commercial service — also would house a separate, fee-based screening facility for international travelers flying privately.

“I think the thing that I know I’m most concerned about, our mayor is most concerned about, our aviation [committee] and our community groups, is the impact that these changes have on the quality of life in our city. That’s the bottom line,” said Councilman Jeff Herdman, who chairs the city’s Aviation Committee. “We’ve dealt with the blight of the airport for 30 years in this city. Just don’t do anything else to us; we’ve had enough.”

The city has previously said it will support any plan that maintains the existing level of general aviation operations or related support facilities and noise regulations and oppose significant changes. The Aviation Committee also backed the minimal impact plan.

General aviation covers the smaller, nonscheduled, private aircraft — from single-engine turboprop planes to corporate jets. John Wayne has about 50 general aviation departures a day. Under the county’s preferred plan, general aviation departures would increase to 55 per day. Under the city’s preferred plan, it would stay at 50.

Noise monitors along the takeoff route show that the average business jet is only about 2 decibels lower than the quietest airline, Southwest.

General aviation pilots can come and go around the clock, while commercial carriers must adhere to a curfew that bars nighttime activity.

Resident Maxine Maly urged the council to take legal action, if necessary.

“If these loud private jets are allowed to fly 24/7 over Newport Beach the quality of our lives will be adversely impacted because we won’t be able to sleep at night without disruption,” she said. “Our home values will plummet as you destroy the appeal of Newport Beach to both residents and tourists.”

Mayor Diane Dixon, Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel and airport representatives will hold a town hall meeting at the Newport Beach Civic Center covering flight paths, noise and general aviation improvements from 10 a.m. to noon April 6.

Council names Steering Committee members

In other business, the council unanimously added James Carlson, an architect who previously served on the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission for eight years, and Catherine O’Hara, who worked in the planning departments in Huntington Beach and San Clemente before becoming a consultant, to the city’s General Plan Update Steering Committee.

The committee gives input on a request for proposals from consultants that would prepare the updated general plan, the city’s long-term planning and development guideline. The committee next meets on March 20.