Flight Path Changes on the Horizon

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A plane takes off from John Wayne Airport, flying over Newport Beach homes and the Upper Newport Bay.
— NB Indy file photo by Lawrence Sherwin ©

Residents under the flight path may soon notice a difference, and the city is hoping for the best.

Newport Beach City Council and members of the public got a comprehensive update on an airline flight path program during a study session last week.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff explained the latest news regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System at John Wayne Airport during the Sept. 26 meeting.

“People should hold out hope that this can and will be improved, and that we are working on it diligently,” Kiff wrote in his Insider’s Guide newsletter. “The key is to figure out the path that affects the least amount of people and that follows the historic departure paths.”

“Of the three new departure tracks that affect us most, each of them seems to have something wrong with it,” Kiff wrote.

The biggest issue may be that two of the paths are too far east.

The FAA has adjusted the paths in the past, but there is still work to be done, Kiff said at the meeting.

Another adjustment to one of the paths, called HHERO, which covers about 40 percent of the flights, will be posted on Thursday, he said. He’s not sure what the modified path looks like, so the potential changes in impact to residents is unknown at this point. Yet another path is scheduled for some fine-tuning on Dec. 7.

They’ll be watching these changes very closely, Kiff said.

Kiff announced that, also on Dec. 7, the FAA may introduce the STAYY, a type of performance-based navigation. This comes several years after the city asked if there was a way a plane could navigate through the curves of the bay without negatively affecting the east or west sides. At the time, the FAA didn’t have the technology, but are now willing to possibly try this type of procedure, Kiff noted.

NextGen is an FAA modernization program being implemented at airports across the country. It incorporates less fanning and more narrowing of the flight paths.

“NextGen is bad for Newport Beach,” Kiff stated.

Although the aim of the program is to improve safety and efficiency of air carrier traffic, it’s made some negative impacts on Newport Beach, including tightening in on what the city – and many residents – consider the wrong path line.

“More correct departures would send flights down the middle of the Upper Bay, in effect splitting ‘the Narrows’ between The Bluffs and Noise Monitoring Station #6 as well as crossing directly over Noise Monitoring Station # 7,” staff explain in the report.

The city and county are working together nearly every day, according to the report. Staff hopes the current more collaborative approach to working with the FAA on a new, better path will lead to a “successful resolution of these concerns.”

“However, working with the FAA takes time,” the staff report reads.

Staff encouraged residents to contact the FAA directly.

A number of residents spoke during the study session, raising several concerns regarding noise, health and quality of life issues.

During the regular meeting, Council unanimously approved a resolution that reaffirms the airport agreement, explains the city’s stance and concerns, and directs the city to continue to pursue modifying the departure paths to protect the residents as much as possible.


For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov/how-do-i-/learn-more-about/john-wayne-airport

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