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What’s up

-- Barbara Diamond

WHAT: Low-altitude commercial airline flights over Laguna.

WHAT’S BEHIND IT: Flights out of John Wayne Airport take off over the

ocean until released by the Federal Aeronautics Administration to turn


back over land. Following the closure of the U.S. Marine Air Base at El

Toro, some commercial airliners began flying over Laguna Beach at an

appreciably lower altitude, making the inland turn earlier, which saves

time and fuel. Residents were told that new technology made the earlier


release possible.

City officials and residents complained to the Federal Aviation

Administration and to the noise complaint office at John Wayne Airport.

They were told that flight patterns had not been altered.

FAA officials met with some residents at a Bluebird Canyon home and

later invited them to visit the FAA headquarters in San Diego County,

which controls flight patterns.

Flights everywhere stopped Sept. 11 and when they resumed, few


commercial airliners flew over Laguna at altitudes that residents found

objectionable, until recently. Days after the U.S. Navy announced that a

commercial airport was no longer being considered for El Toro, Laguna

residents began waking up to the sound of low-altitude flights.

Flights begin shortly after 7 a.m., when John Wayne opens, and fly

over Laguna at various heights and frequencies. Thursday morning, nine

audible flights were documented between 7:18 and 7:49 a.m.

WHAT’S SAID: “We had a few weeks free of the low flights and now they


are back,” said Mary Fegraus, a Bluebird Canyon resident and executive

director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation. “These are less detrimental to

parklands than flights from El Toro would have been. Emissions and debris

are less because we are not so close to the takeoff point. But we are

comparing two bad things.”

WHAT’S NEXT: People who are annoyed by the low flights can call the

John Wayne noise abatement number, 252-5185, and the FAA Noise Hotline at

(310) 725-3638.