Zig-zag flight pattern proposed

In addition to that famously steep takeoff, some passengers heading out of John Wayne Airport could someday sit through a zig-zag  over the Upper Newport Bay, if the Federal Aviation Administration approves a departure procedure recommended by  the Newport Beach City Council.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to send a letter to the federal agency proposing the procedure, which was developed with the help of aviation consulting firm Naverus for $75,000.

The route, a staff report says, would reduce the noise of jet engines flying over nearby neighborhoods. However, the procedure would be new to the continental U.S. — which would likely mean more work for the FAA to regulate.

Flights in and out of JWA are some of the most strictly controlled in the country as a result of community noise concerns over the years.

 "This request is another effort to improve the quality of life and reduce the impact of the airport," Mayor Keith Curry said just before the meeting.

The proposed route would be implemented as part of the FAA's "NextGen" program, which is moving airports around the country toward the use of  more precise satellite navigation technology — as opposed to traditional ground-based systems — to guide flights.

Under the NextGen program, "all of your flight tracks are in a very tight ribbon," said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman. "With the traditional procedures, aircrafts are more widely dispersed."

Commercial flights departing from JWA and headed for destinations east of Las Vegas — about half — are already on the new system and take off according to a procedure known as STREL.That was implemented in 2011.

Now, the FAA is working on a similar procedure for the remaining flights, known as RAWLZ.

According to the report, feedback on STREL was mixed,  with residents both east and west of the Back Bay complaining about jets overhead.

So, some community members asked whether flights could be required to avoid "fanning out" over homes, and instead cling to the curves of the Upper Bay. That would require the plane to turn "two or more times," according to the report.

Such a flight pattern would be technically possible to develop, but the FAA would have to be "willing to accept and/or design it."

A list of possible regulatory hurdles in the report includes the fact that "a charting standard for the proposed departure does not yet exist and would need to be developed."

Still, council members said Tuesday that they were happy to be moving ahead with what Councilwoman Leslie Daigle called a "groundbreaking measure" to mitigate the airport's effects.

Gregor said in a statement emailed Tuesday afternoon that while the FAA hasn't yet "received a formal recommendation from Newport Beach," the agency has a "long history of listening to concerns from communities around John Wayne Airport, and will thoroughly analyze any recommendations we receive from them."

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