City News Service

OC Supervisors Approve Plan to Revitalize Section of John Wayne Airport

Orange County supervisors Tuesday unanimously voted to move forward with a plan to revitalize the smaller plane section of John Wayne Airport.

The board voted to solicit proposals to revamp the part of the airport for smaller aircraft such as prop planes and corporate jets.

The plan limits medium and large general aviation jet aircraft to about 25.6 acres and allows for operations from 5 a.m. to midnight.

A full-service fixed-base operator would be on 14.2 acres on the northwest side of the airport, and another full-service fixed-base operator would be on 11.4 acres on the northeast side. The plan also includes a limited-service fixed-base operator on the southwest side on 14.1 acres and a small aircraft only on 20.5 acres on the southeast side.

The plan drew criticism from dozens of residents, but Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon praised the supervisors for taking into account feedback from the city since the board began considering plans in April.

"We have had many productive conversations with staff since early April," Dixon said, adding that Newport Beach officials were pleased to see it limited to two full-service fixed-base operators.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley implored the supervisors to not go beyond two full-service fixed-base operators.

"Do not increase and expand the corporate, or what some might call billionaire jets," Foley said.

Supervisor Michelle Steel, whose district covers the airport, said the new plan includes "my original goals of modernizing our facilities and getting in line with the (Federal Aviation Administration) rules."

Residents in the audience at the board meeting groaned when Steel mentioned the hours of operation, but County Counsel Leon Page explained that the county is limited in how much it can regulate the airport.

"The airport itself is a freeway and the Board of Supervisors can no more control who drives on a freeway than it can control who lands on our airport," Page said. "That is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the FAA."

Congress, he added, "has made it more difficult" for local governments like the county to "regulate" airports.

"So, with respect to the FBO hours of operation, I don't think the board can do anything about that," Page said.

Supervisor Don Wagner acknowledged the complaints about noise and concerns about health issues related to the airport, but said the deal is the best compromise.

"Inevitably, no one gets everything they want,'' Wagner said. "The health of the citizens (is) protected, the expansion is off the table and it is time to move forward with the interests as best as can be balanced."

Wagner thanked Steel for an "exemplary job in a complicated process in bringing the folks together as best as can be done."

According to county officials, the general aviation section of the airport had not been comprehensively studied from1990 until 2015, when airport officials began to consider an update.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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