Residents complain about airplanes

Folks around town are sounding off about the noise from low-flying commercial airplanes over Laguna, but city staff said their data doesn't support the complaints.

The City Council will hear a report at the Nov. 13 meeting summarizing what staff learned in a presentation by Federal Aviation Administration officials about the flights over Laguna. Meanwhile, residents are asking why the flights are noisier and more frequent now than a few months ago.

"Ganka Brown was Paul Revere on this one," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who requested the report. "She kept sending emails to staff about putting an item on the agenda."

Brown, who lives in Arch Beach Heights, is irate.

"I started counting the flights about a month ago," Brown said. "One morning I counted 12 or 13 flights between 7 and 7:45 a.m."

Brown contacted the FAA offices in Long Beach.

"The FAA official told me that Orange County (John Wayne) Airport was testing GPS on flights going toward Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa — but they got a lot of complaints so they diverted the planes to Laguna Beach," Brown said.

"We need to contact all of our elected officials for support," she added.

Brown is not the only resident annoyed by the increase in low-flying flights.

"You can add my name to the list," said Woods Cove resident Rosaura Ulvestad.

Flight noise is heard from the top to the bottom of the city, locals said.

"They do seem like they are flying lower than they used to," said Top of the World resident Carey Strombotne.

Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson said most of the complaints to the city came from Canyon Acres.

"The FAA knows all flight patterns, and when we get a complaint we ask for the time and if the caller is emphatic, we direct them to the city's website, which has a link to the FAA," Johnson said.

Johnson said the complaints have not jibed with FAA information that no violations have occurred.

Most complaints are anecdotal.

"Give me some facts to work with," City Manager John Pietig said.

Many residents feel that complaints won't help.

"It sounded like a highway over our house in August, and I almost called the airport, but I didn't think it would do any good," said Bluebird Canyon resident Mary Fegraus.

Johnson posited that folks' memories might be faulty.

"Flights were cut during the Great Recession," Johnson said. "The economy has improved, and there are more flights now. People may have forgotten what it was like before the flights were cut."

She suggested that the opening of a third terminal at John Wayne may have increased the flights over Laguna.

Johnson said a new takeoff procedure from John Wayne began this year, which staff was told had no adverse effect on Laguna's quality of life.

The city has requested more information for the report to be delivered at the Nov. 13 meeting and that an FAA official attend.


Same Old, Same Old

Complaints about noise from low-flying airplanes principally from John Wayne are nothing new in Laguna. They cropped up in 2001, in November of 2003, August and October of 2005, October of 2006, July and September of 2007.

Outbound flights from the airport take off toward the ocean until released by the FAA to turn back overland.

After the closure of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in 1999, some commercial airliners from John Wayne began making the inland turn earlier, flying over Laguna Beach at an appreciable lower altitude, saving time and fuel.

Residents complained, but the FAA said no changes had been made.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman suggested boycotting airlines that persisted in droning over Laguna.

The city began tracking the flights and presented the data to Congressman Chris Cox, who went to bat for Laguna. Flights were abated.

In the past, most complaints were directed to John Wayne. This time around, residents and city staff are including other airports.

"Departures from John Wayne stop at 10 p.m., arrivals at 11 p.m.," said city Assistant Analyst Liz Avila, who was briefed by the FAA.

Flights begin shortly after 7 a.m.

"A few minutes later they are over Laguna," said resident Clark Fegraus.

"There is supposed to be a gap between flights, but the other morning, it was flight after flight after flight," Fegraus said.

People who are disturbed by daytime low-altitude commercial flights can call the John Wayne noise abatement number, (949) 252-5185 or email

Additional options are available on the city's website.

Twitter: @coastlinepilot

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World