John Wayne Airport issues . . . as of June 2018
The City Manager continues to oversee a three-pronged approach to reducing JWA impacts — an approach that appears to have never been formally discussed, endorsed or budgeted by the full City Council (see October 10, 2017, entry under “Recent Events,” below). The approach consists of promoting higher, quieter, less polluting flights through a combination of: (1) collecting and analyzing technical data on existing versus potential noise levels, (2) lobbying legislators and air carriers in Washington, DC, and (3) placing public pressure for change on the air carriers through a coordinated public relations campaign.
Meanwhile, JWA does not appear to be actively pursuing its efforts to get SPON to agree to an amendment to the Settlement Agreement that would allow larger commuter planes.
However, release of the draft Environmental Impact Report for JWA’s planned General Aviation Improvement Program is expected soon.
Project Overview: Orange County’s John Wayne Airport has long been cited as one of the greatest continuing threats to the quality of life in Newport Beach. Although a convenient travel option for residents and businesses, it brings unwanted noise and pollution.
Why We Were Watching: SPON’s concern with the airport dates almost from our organization’s inception and is memorialized by SPON’s role as a signatory to the 1985 Settlement Agreement, and each of its extensions. Since 2002, many of SPON’s concerns have been championed by AirFair, a regional political action committee focused on containing JWA’s impacts.
Although there is perennial concern in the community about flight paths, SPON tends to stay away from issues whose solution will benefit one area at the expense of another, and focuses instead on efforts benefiting all residents: seeking fewer, higher, quieter and less polluting flights.
SPON is particularly concerned about the as-yet-to-be-finalized General Aviation Improvement Program, which could significantly alter the mix and number of small jets, unregulated by the Settlement Agreement, flying out of the airport.
September 12 @ 2:00-3:00 pm – Quarterly Noise Meeting
JWA Eddie Martin Admin. Bldg. (3160 Airway Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626)
- There is no agenda for these meetings, but they offer a chance to talk with JWA Noise staff about the quarterly Noise Abatement Reports and other issues.
- June 18, 2018: -The City’s Aviation Committee held one of its rare meetings in the Civic Center Community Room adjacent to the Council Chambers. The agenda appeared to indicate the Committee would be hearing a report from the City’s consultant, HMMH, on the results of their analysis of the pros and cons of various departure procedures. This turned out to be only an update from outgoing City Manager Dave Kiff on the status of HMMH’s work on the contact items. He said HMMH had completed its study of noise data from departures flown by Alaska, American, United and Southwest Airlines from October through January and had compared the data to an FAA noise model. They would next be asking if any of the carriers were doing things that could be applied beneficially to the others, with a conclusion about that due by the end of July. Finally, they would be asked if there is a beneficial new and currently unused procedure that could be suggested to the FAA as a replacement for one of two alternatives currently approved. That conclusion is expected in August or September, to be followed by the “big ask” to the FAA and carriers to adopt it. In the preceding, “departure procedure” refers not to the flight path or ground track, but rather to the height and speed with which the aircraft ascends over the ground track.
- June 13, 2018: JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting held at JWA headquarters with just four members of the public in attendance. JWA staff called attention to the Metropolitan Washington (DC) Airports Authority’s noise reporting, which, since 2015, has posted for the public in spreadsheet form information from the noise sensors at the Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. These provide both monthly summaries, giving various statistical measures (such as minimum, maximum, and mode), and detailed listings of every sound event at every monitor, identified by aircraft or as a “community” (non-aircraft) event, along with the background noise levels observed between events. Equally importantly, the DC airports measure events with lower loudness levels and shorter durations than other airports (including JWA), which is important if they are to continue to accurately gauge aircraft impacts as planes become quieter but more numerous (JWA logs and reports only events that exceed 65 dB for 10 to 60 seconds).
- June 13, 2018: City posts HMMH report on side-by-side noise testing (conducted December 2017 through January 2018) on the Aviation Committee’s Special Reports page. HMMH took readings at two JWA noise monitor locations, and at three locations not normally monitored by JWA.
- May 22, 2018: As Item 15 on its agenda, the City Council approved an extension of its contract for airport consulting with former Council member and Mayor Tom Edwards.
- May 4, 2018: On short notice, the City held a Friday Aviation Forum in the City Council Chambers at which the delegation from the recent Washington, DC, trip debriefed the public on the results of their effort. The City has posted the PowerPoint shown by the City Manager.
- April 24-27, 2018: A delegation consisting of City Manager Dave Kiff, Deputy City Manager/Public Information Manager Tara Finnigan, and Council Members Herdman, Dixon and Muldoon flew to Washington, D.C., to introduce themselves to the City’s lobbyist at Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney (see January 23, below), and visit various congressional and FAA offices. It is unclear who appointed the delegation, or who authorized the travel, as there was no Council or Aviation Committee discussion of it.
- April 19, 2018: City Manager signs contract C-7391-1 with Probolsky Research to convene two 90-minute focus groups of 12 or more people each regarding outreach to FAA and air carriers relative to quieter departure paths.
- March 29, 2018: First “STAYY” departure using the FAA-approved curving path over the Upper Bay that the City had long lobbied for. Preliminary results were provided in the City’s April 2018 Monthly Report.
- March 14, 2018: The JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting was held at JWA headquarters.
- March 9, 2018: The City held a Friday Airport Forum in the City Council Chambers. As the third of three presentations from them, the JWA Access and Noise Office explained the process by which the limited commercial capacity at JWA is assigned, each year, to the various carriers under the Access Plan.
- February 12, 2018: The City Aviation Committee met (agenda), with Councilman Herdman (Chair) out sick and the JWA personnel on holiday. Results from the City’s independent noise monitoring (see December 1, below) are not yet available, but may be by the next meeting, likely in April. On the same day, the City Manager signed contract C-7330-1 with Dynamic Strategy Group for public relations/outreach assistance in approaching and influencing air carriers.
- February 9, 2018: A Friday Airport Forum was held with JWA Access and Noise Office staff providing the second of three presentations from them, this one about the Settlement Agreement and Access Plan.
- February 8, 2018: City Manager signs contract C-7297-2 with HMMH for updated study of departure pattern alternatives (promised as part of Resolution 2017-63 from September 26; see also December 1, below).
- January 26, 2018: A Friday Airport Forum was held with JWA Access and Noise Office staff giving a “Noise 101” presentation detailing how aircraft noise is monitored and reported.
- January 23, 2018: City Manager Dave Kiff posted a Letter to the Community regarding airport issues. On the same day, he signed contract C-7390-1 with Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney for lobbying the FAA and airlines(?) in Washington, D.C. (see, request #1 from October 10, below)
- January 19, 2018: US Department of Justice signs agreement concluding City’s lawsuit against the FAA’s NextGen/Metroplex Project. The agreement has been posted and can be viewed as City Contract No. C-7291-1. It encourages trials of an “S-curve” departure, and promises City and public review of any future changes to flight paths.
- January 9, 2018: The City has announced a tentative agreement with the FAA resulting from mediation over the FAA’s handling of their Environmental Impact Statement regarding the new GPS-controlled NextGen flight paths. The settlement (the text of which has not yet been released) purportedly involves a number of deal points favorable to residents, as detailed in the City announcement. SPON was supposedly invited to participate in the mediation, but to the best of its knowledge was not informed of that opportunity.
- December 13, 2017: The JWA Quarterly Noise Meeting was held in a new format, with Noise Office staff giving PowerPoint presentations to the public in attendance on various topics of interest, followed by an open question and answer period.
- December 11, 2017: the City Aviation Committee met. The announced topics (see agenda) included possible implementation of a “Fly Quiet” program, encouraging airlines to reduce noise impacts, although nothing concrete appeared to decided regarding that.
- December 8, 2017: Aviation Committee Chair Jeff Herdman and City Manager Dave Kiff held their second informal community get-together regarding JWA issues in the City Council Chambers from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Mr. Herdman collected sets of four questions from members of the audience and Mr. Kiff attempted to answer them.
- December 1, 2017: City Manager signs contract C-7297-1 with Harris Miller Miller & Hanson, Inc. (“HMMH“) for independent monitoring and verification of aircraft noise levels (see October 10, request #2).
- November 30, 2017: Council member Diane Dixon held a town hall on NexGen issues for Peninsula residents at Marina Park from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
- The City’s online calendar has twice listed a “Community Forum on John Wayne Airport,” apparently featuring work done by AWG. It was first listed for November 15 and then for December 6. Both times the listing disappeared without the event happening.
- November 17, 2017: Council member (and Aviation Committee Chair) Jeff Herdman and City Manager Dave Kiff held the first of planned periodic opportunities for informal discussions about airport issues. The meeting, as will apparently be the pattern, was held in the City Council Chambers from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.
- October 30, 2017: The City’s Aviation Committee held one of its rare meetings. There was some talk of the City instituting a “Fly Quiet” incentive program, but little concrete happened.
- October 10, 2017: Under Item XIII, the City Council unanimously directed City staff to return with future agenda items regarding two matters proposed by Mayor Muldoon: (1) “Seeking the assistance of a federal advocate to work with the City on FAA and related aviation matters, including communication with major air carriers,” and (2) “Supporting additional review and verification of data accuracy from the County of Orange’s seven noise monitoring stations on the JWA departure corridors.” Those items do not appear to have ever been placed on a Council agenda, yet contracts for executing them were signed by the City Manager on December 1, 2017, and
- October 6, 2017: Following on the September 15 event, AirFair hosted a second, even better attended public forum. Mayor Kevin Muldoon, Council member Jeff Herdman, City Manager Dave Kiff and City Attorney Aaron Harp presented and fielded questions.
- September 26, 2017: the City Council held a public study session at 4:00 p.m. regarding the City’s response to the new departure procedures at JWA, and at its evening meeting passed Resolution 2017-63 endorsing certain new and renewed actions with respect to the airport. Mayor Muldoon additionally (under Item XII) “Requested a future agenda item to hire a Washington DC lobbyist to help the City and Airport Consultant Tom Edwards work with the FAA and County; enter into direct communications with the major air carriers; and come up with a method to track sound levels to confirm that decibel readers are accurate. “
- September 15, 2017: AirFair hosted on a public forum on JWA issues at the Newport Beach Tennis Club in Eastbluff.
Settlement Agreement related events
- In 2018, JWA again approached SPON inquiring whether its position regarding the commuter aircraft definition had changed, but seemed less aggressive about demanding an answer.
- In 2017, JWA approached SPON and the other signatories with a second request to amend the recently-extended Settlement Agreement, this time to increase the allowed number of seats on “commuter” aircraft from 70 to 76. Although the change seemed very small, SPON was not convinced of the airport’s claim that this would reduce noise, and was concerned that it would instead lead to the present Settlement Agreement limited number of passengers being placed on a larger number of planes, each as noisy as the present ones carrying more. In addition, SPON was concerned about a rumored threat by Southwest Airlines to attempt to invalidate the Agreement in its entirety if the change was made. The airport tabled the matter after SPON requested indemnification, but it is likely to return in 2018.
- In 2015, SPON reluctantly agreed to minor increases in the noise levels allowed by the Settlement Agreement at the airport’s seven automated monitoring stations in Newport Beach, supposedly necessitated by the installation of newer, “more sensitive” microphones.
- In 2014, SPON completed negotiation of the second of two extensions of the historic JWA Settlement Agreement. This one limits commercial jet operations through 2030. The previous extension, signed in 2003, would have expired in 2015.
- A departure path of less resistance might be coming to JWA (Daily Pilot, September 27, 2017 — SPON has not taken a position on this)
- JWA’s Noise and Access page, including Quarterly Noise Abatement Reports, Quarterly Noise Meeting dates and interactive Flight Track Viewer (“VOLANS”)
- JWA’s Settlement Agreement page, including key terms.
- Newport Beach City Council Airport Policy (Policy A-17) and archive of past versions (most recent includes Settlement Agreement as an attachment)
- City Manager’s January 23, 2018, Letter to the Community regarding airport issues.
- City complaint form (to be forwarded to FAA regarding NextGen/SoCal Metroplex flight issues)
- City’s Aviation Committee page, including links to Monthly Reports prepared by the City’s JWA consultant (and one-time Mayor) Tom Edwards, which seem to be the City’s primary mechanism for disseminating JWA-related information
- City’s JWA Special Reports page contains a growing list of airport-relevant documents arranged chronologically, with the oldest at the bottom. These include the “ARTS” study of departure options prepared for the City in 2008 and the so-called “Spheres Agreement” with the County from 2006 which, if honored, contains promises limiting extension of the runway to the south (but not to the north).
- City’s JWA issues page summarizes issues as of mid-2017(?). It does not seem to have been systematically updated since, but it was supplemented by the similar City Manager’s January 23, 2018, “Letter to the Community” (see above). For example, the Issues page mentions preparations for, but not implementation of the new curving-path STAAY procedure. The issues page contains links to “Related Items” at the bottom of the page.
- Aviation Committee Chair, Councilman Jeff Herdman, maintains a blog on his campaign website that includes entries updating constituents on aviation-related matters
- AirFair (citizens activist group affiliated with SPON, meetings open to public)
- Airport Working Group (similar to AirFair, but an older outgrowth of SPON; board meetings closed to public)
- Original 1981 Environmental Impact Statement (triggered dispute leading to Settlement Agreement) — online on Hathi Trust and Google Books
- EIR 508 for 1985 Master Plan, all volumes available on Hathi Trust digital library, or Google books:
- EIR 546, from 1993, deals with “The Phase II Access Plan, Noise Limits and Noise Monitoring.” It has been recently posted in four parts on the City’s JWA Special Reports page (see bottom of page). It also seems to be available as a single 118 MB 660 page PDF via a link at the bottom of the City’s JWA Issues page.
- EIR 573, from 2001, studied splitting aircraft operations in Orange County between JWA and a proposed Orange County International Airport at the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Part of it is available via a link on the Airport Working Group website. Much more was posted by opponents of the El Toro site, and remains available on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
- EIR 582 for the 2003 Settlement Agreement extension (which allowed massive expansion of the terminal) is available in print at Newport Beach Public Library , including a 2004 Supplemental EIR for terminal construction. A scanned copy of the latter (only) is available on the AWG website.
- EIR 617 for the 2014 extension: draft online at JWA (with explanation here); in print at Newport Beach Public Library (draft and final). There is also an associated Mitigation Monitoring Program listing tasks to be accomplished after adoption of the extended Settlement Agreement.