The Airport Commission voted Wednesday to recommend that the County send out a request for proposals for fixed base operators at John Wayne Airport, despite concerns from community groups and general aviation advocates.
Full-service fixed base operators provide fuel to general aviation customers, hangars and tie-down facility management, aircraft repair services, transient aircraft parking, charter operations, and aircraft washing.
About 20 speakers at Wednesday’s meeting were disappointed that the Commission moved forward without asking operators to specify their plan and commitment for maintaining the current existing balance of individual hangar size, guaranteeing a future for small propeller-driven planes, said Fred Fourcher, founder and board member of the Southern California Pilots Association.
“You could have heard the sighs and the ‘oh-nos,’” Fourcher said.
According to Fourcher, Airport Director Barry Rondinella incorrectly told the Commission that the proposed RFP adequately addressed the public’s concerns about maintaining the ratio of propeller planes to corporate jets. Newport Beach residents have complained that the general aviation plan approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in June clears the way for loud jets to crowd out Cessnas.
“The Airport Director has done everything in his power to influence the Board of Supervisors and influence the Airport Commission,” Fourcher said.
Airport spokeswoman Deanne Thompson singled out a questionnaire in the RFP that asks fixed base operators about their experience and background, including proposed rents for tie-down spaces and hangars.
“The final phase of the RFP process is a panel interview based on a defined set of questions; applicants receive these questions ten minutes before the interview begins,” Thompson wrote in a prepared statement. “While we cannot disclose the content of these questions, the purpose is to ensure that the applicant’s proposal is consistent with the stated goals of the project.”
Fourcher recommends the operators build hangars for aircraft with a wingspan of 40 foot or less because it will keep the current balance of aircraft types for the next 30 years.
The Board of Supervisors is set to review the RFP at its 9:30 a.m. meeting Tuesday at 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana.