Newport Beach Urges County to Preserve Small General Aviation

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On Tuesday, August 11, the Orange County Board of Supervisors will make its next important decision concerning the John Wayne Airport General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) when the Board chooses the private companies that will build out and operate the airport’s new general aviation facilities.

Known as Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), the private companies will enter long-term leases with the County and will be Newport Beach’s neighbors for more than three decades.

The City of Newport Beach has closely tracked the GAIP since April 2017, when JWA initiated the environmental process for the project. What the city initially believed to be an updating of the airport’s general aviation facilities turned out to be far more than that. When the draft environmental impact report was released for public review in September 2018, it unveiled a proposed project and alternatives that went far beyond updating facilities. The city of Newport Beach saw the strong likelihood that the project would diminish the presence of small general aviation – the lighter and quieter propeller-driven single- and twin-engine aircraft – in favor of the heavier and louder general aviation jets. The city’s response was swift and clear because, as proposed, it would lead to more noise and air quality impacts for Newport Beach residents and those in surrounding communities.

For nearly 24 months, City officials fought alongside aviation-focused community groups and residents to contain the project and maintain the strong presence of small general aviation at the airport. The Board of Supervisors heard the requests and responded favorably.

The project the County is now going to build is much better for the community than what was originally proposed. The adopted plan has just two fixed base operators (the County wanted three) and sets aside more than 34 acres, the majority of the space available, for the smaller and quieter general aviation aircraft. This, in turn, reduces the space available for General Aviation jets and there will be fewer GA jets parked at John Wayne Airport when this project is completed than there are today.

The City is now focused on how the selected FBOs will manage their facilities. The City is urging the County to limit the FBOs’ amenities and their hours of operation to help prevent an increase in GA jet traffic and the corresponding noise and pollution impacts.

Specifically, the City is urging the Board to include the following in the long-term leases it negotiates with the FBOs:

  1. Limit the hours of operation of the FBOs to match the commercial airline curfew hours,
  2. Eliminate the general aviation facility (the proposed space that would be used to process international passengers),
  3. Prohibit commercial airlines like JetSuiteX from operating out of an FBO,
  4. Incorporate the Board-approved, small general aviation and mixed-use land use restrictions.

The City wants these items in the final, negotiated leases along with a clause requiring any future, proposed lease changes pertaining to these provisions to go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The City is also requesting additional commitments to promote transparency and community noise and air quality protections.

Read more about those and the City’s work on the GAIP at newportbeachca.gov/gaip.

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