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Newport Beach

Volume 4, Issue 66  |  August 16, 2019


Letter to the Editor:

Airport issue before County Supervisors should concern us all

In the next seven days, Orange County Board of Supervisors will quietly come to a decision over private jet flights at John Wayne Airport that could place the private comfort and momentary enjoyment of a handful of executives, celebrities, and residents with money to throw around, over the basic rights of Orange County residents, and indeed the rest of the world. In violation of the spirit of the charters that produced JWA as we know it, this change will drastically increase the raw number of flights, which will in turn drastically increase the amount of aviation pollution in our communities, and as National Geographic once pointed out, aviation exhaust kills more people than plane crashes. But moreover, according to The Economist, private jet travel is increasingly just a highly destructive tax-free perk for elite corporate executives, and if the current trends in private jets continue, private planes are on track to generate 4 percent of American CO2 emissions by 2050, up from 0.9 percent currently. In short, our County is mulling a decision that will sell out the vast majority of Orange County residents’ needs, in favor of something fun and convenient for a tiny, elite minority.

Relatively few Orange County residents were listening at Tuesday’s meeting of the County Board of Supervisors related to the expansion of the General Aviation Facilities at the John Wayne Airport, and that’s unfortunate. Since I’m directly under the flight path, I got involved in these affairs four-and-a-half years ago when a program called “Nextgen” was slated to change air traffic patterns in Southern California – harming hundreds of thousands of Southern California residents. Nextgen is now in place, and if you are within five miles either side of the departure or arrival pattern of an airport, you have a greater level of jet aircraft carcinogenic particulates impacting your family’s health. Jet fuel is a serious, unregulated form of pollution. 

On Tuesday May 7th, the County of Orange Board of Supervisors held a meeting to consider a proposal to modify the General Aviation Facilities at John Wayne Airport. Hidden within the plan is the desire of the Board of Supervisors/Airport staff to expand the facilities for private jets and make room for a new product that many are calling “Uber Jets,” like Jet Suite and Jet Suite X – private jet charter flights. There were no corporate or charter jets in 1985 when the County signed the agreement to limit the growth of commercial flights and established a curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Since corporate jets and small charter jets are outside of the current agreement and considered General Aviation, they have impacted our peace and health to the tune of 55 flights per day under the radar. Total jet departures are around 180 per day. 

In theory, there should be no private jets at JWA because it is a county airport and there is no public benefit to the average resident for these services and these jets have major environmental impacts. But chartered private jets are allowed under the current regulations and don’t conform to the passenger count restrictions under the 1985 agreement. If they were properly incorporated into the growth restriction air passenger count in the agreement, it wouldn’t matter if it was a Southwest commercial jet or a charter jet flying over our homes. All would be counted in the agreed passenger per day allocation and County Supervisors could decide based on limitation if they preferred charter jet flights to commercial jet flights. They would clearly favor commercial flights which better meet the needs of county residents.

On Tuesday the County Supervisors were ready to approve their Option #1 plan and expand facilities and services with total disregard of public policy and environmental impacts on residents. There was no staff presentation to explain the scope of the proposals. Consequently most of the 300+ people in attendance had no way to fully understand the scope of these proposals. County Supervisors refused to acknowledge charter jets and kept only referring to the corporate jets. They took a break in the afternoon into a planned Closed Session to discuss the item posted as “employee negotiations” while we waited for them to reconvene. After more than an hour, the Supervisors returned and magically produced a proposal. This modified version of proposal #1 was presented, and while Newport Beach Mayor Dixon listened to the proposal, there was no deal and the item was continued for two weeks (now one week). 

We have a convenient airport in Orange County which is used by most County residents. I observed a lack of understanding by our County Supervisors regarding how they should manage our airport, and this causes great concern to me as it should also concern you. Our County should set policy that will avoid further environmental impacts from JWA on our residents. The supervisors lack of proper public policy to protect us from environmental impacts and their desire to grow the airport to benefit a few individuals is inexcusable. 

The County Supervisors want to make more room for corporate jets and charter jets. What the county needs is the most effective mix of flights to serve the majority of our residents minimizing the environment impact on residents of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Santa Ana, county unincorporated areas, Tustin and anyone else within 5 miles of the noise and pollution of the jets. We need an updated General Aviation Improvement Plan that cannot be expanded in the future, establishment of a curfew for General Aviation similar to the one in the current agreement, recognizing the charter jets in the passenger counts in the agreement, no increase in the General Aviation jet departures from the 55 per day or a decrease making private jet departures more costly or difficult through public policy, fees or other disincentives. 

City officials of Newport Beach, Laguna, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana and Tustin, stand up for your residents or help us elect supervisors that understand proper public policy to balance environmental impact with public benefit. This decision is a forever decision that with lack of public policy will have a negative impact on a large number of Orange County residents. Litigation would not be necessary to resolve this issue if the County Supervisors were doing the job for which they were elected 

Lee and Sue Pearl 

Newport Beach

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