John Wayne Airport is considering modernizing its general aviation facilities.
The proposed improvements include:
- Modifications to buildings and an airfield roadway to comply with current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for airport design
- Provisions for a General Aviation facility which is a screening facility for Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, for international travel, in addition to provisions for a general aviation terminal
- Provisions for up to three full-service, Fixed Base Operators
- Provisions for a flight school with tie-down areas
- Provisions for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department air support facility
- Provisions for a self-service fuel facility for general aviation aircraft
- Retention of the existing general aviation fuel farm, which is located on the southeast side of the airport.
All proposed improvements are proposed to be confined to the existing airport footprint. You can learn more about the program at ocair.com/generalaviation/gaimprovement.
The City has been aware of and began tracking this proposal as early as March 2017. City representatives attended the initial project scoping meeting on April 12, 2017 and also provided a detailed comment letter in response to the Notice of Preparation for the environmental impact report. The topic was covered in the City’s April 2017 Aviation Update and was a subject of discussion before the City’s Aviation Committee and two community groups. The issues of noise and air quality were key items for discussion and comment.
Draft Environmental Impact Report on General Aviation Improvement Program
The County of Orange prepared a Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) in the fall of 2018. The draft EIR public review and comment period began on September 20, 2018 and closed on November 21, 2018. City staff and consultants reviewed the Draft EIR for potential impacts to Newport Beach.
The City submitted a comment letter on the Draft EIR to JWA on November 16, 2018. Four Newport Beach community organizations also submitted comment letters on the Draft EIR and those can be found on the Documents and Resources page (see Community Organizations' Letters). As of March 2019, the County is still reviewing all of the comments received and has not yet issued any responses. The Draft EIR is available for public review at ocair.com/deir627.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is General Aviation?
General Aviation is the term used to describe all civil aviation operations (arrivals and departures) other than regularly scheduled, commercial air carrier service. The types of aircraft used in general aviation flights include biplanes, single- or twin-engine airplanes, turbo props, helicopters, corporate business jets, and more.
Do General Aviation aircraft have to abide by the JWA curfew?
Yes. It is a noise-based curfew that limits, but does not prohibit, the operation of General Aviation between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sundays) for departures pursuant to the County’s General Aviation Noise Ordinance and has been in effect for over 30 years.
Why is the City of Newport Beach interested in a project involving improvements to JWA’s General Aviation facilities?
The City has long held the position that it will support any plan that maintains, and oppose any plan that significantly changes, the existing level of general aviation operations or general aviation support facilities, or the General Aviation Noise Ordinance for JWA. Currently the airport’s “general aviation mix” is mostly comprised of smaller aircraft and some corporate jets. Changes to the airport’s general aviation facilities could lead to changes to this general aviation mix. If those changes result in more corporate jets, and less of the smaller general aviation aircraft, Newport Beach neighborhoods might experience additional noise and pollution impacts. The corporate jets that depart JWA follow the same departure paths as the commercial passenger air carriers – directly over Newport Beach. The rest of the General Aviation aircraft are quieter and most follow different departure paths, thus they have less direct impact on Newport Beach neighborhoods.
If the airport expands its General Aviation facilities, could we see more jets flying over Newport Beach?
Yes, it’s possible. Certain alternatives the County is considering would expand the airport’s general aviation facilities and services, making JWA more appealing to corporate jet owners and operators. As the County stated in its EIR “…Regularly scheduled commercial charter operators have approached the County, expressing their interest in initiating regularly scheduled air service at the Airport….” This resulted in the County thereby including provisions for a General Aviation terminal in the general aviation improvement project.
There are outside factors too that are affecting the local market for corporate jet services. The “sharing economy” is making private jet service more affordable and more popular as travelers can now purchase a seat on a private jet heading to a particular destination rather than chartering the entire plane themselves. Santa Monica Airport, which has been an active general aviation airport for decades, is slated to close in 2028. The planes that are housed in Santa Monica or that fly into that airport to access Southern California will need to go elsewhere.
There are a number of project alternatives listed in the EIR, including one that would result in no project at all. Is that the one the City intends to support?
The City understands the airport needs to bring its facilities up to current FAA standards, but it would not be supportive of the project alternatives that call for expanding the General Aviation facilities and/or any plan that would increase the number of business jets and decrease the number of smaller General Aviation aircraft that utilize JWA on a routine basis.
For a more detailed list of Questions and Answers, please see page two of the December 2018 Monthly Aviation Update.