By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
1 If SoCal really needs a big, new airport, old March Air Force Base in Riverside County, now open for commercial flights and 25 air miles from El Toro, sports a 13,300-foot runway—the longest in California.
2 On Nov. 20, 1997, county executive officer Jan Mittermeier told the solidly pro-airport Orange County Business Council that "96 percent of Orange County cargo is transported through airports other than [John Wayne Airport], which, according to Chapman University president and economist James Doti, is the equivalent of $4.9 billion in lost annual revenue." That sounds great, except Doti denies he or anyone at Chapman ever came up with that figure. In fact, no one seems to know where Mittermeier found such a precise figure. Unless she made it up.
3 At 1:44 a.m. on June 25, 1965, a U.S. Air Force C-135 (the equivalent of a Boeing 707) crashed into Loma Ridge nine minutes after departing north on El Toro's Runway 34. Aboard were the plane's 12 crew members and 72 Marines headed for Vietnam. All were killed. After the crash, all big transport aircraft were directed to depart El Toro to the south on Runway 16. Today, the county wants 38 percent of all departures to head north on Runway 34.
4 The county wants El Toro's eastern-facing Runway 7 to launch 62 percent of all departures. This is despite the fact that Runway 7 is the worst of all of El Toro's runways, since it forces aircraft to depart uphill into rising terrain with tail winds—a hat trick of trouble commercial pilots usually try to avoid.
5 In order to scare the hell out of Newport Beach and make sure its residents continue to support a massive international airport at El Toro, county planners came up with Plan G. If El Toro doesn't get the go-ahead, Plan G would kick in: John Wayne Airport gets a few additional thousand feet of runway, huge swaths of commercial land around the field get swallowed up (including the corporate park that houses OC Weekly World Headquarters), and 25 million passengers fly in and out of the terminal every year to points around the globe. Ironically, anti-airport supervisors have tried to kill Plan G; not so surprisingly, pro-airport supervisors have successfully voted to keep it alive. What's even scarier is that many Newport Beach residents might actually believe the county would blast their city off the map with this monster.
6 Two words: baggage claim.
7 Because El Toro would open in the middle of one of the largest concentrations of airports in the world, it would hurl 150 planes into already-existing flight paths every day.
8 Commercial airliners and airports are the biggest unregulated sources of air pollution in the world. Airports typically emit more nitrogen oxides and volatile organics (what you and I call smog) than most power plants and industrial centers. According to a 1996 Natural Resources Defense Council report on airliner pollution, "If the relationship between airplanes, airports and air pollution is not thoroughly re-examined, [the predicted] increase in flights will undoubtedly lead to a continued increase in uncontrolled, local air pollution."
9 Despite county officials' assurances that they'd work to get nighttime curfews at El Toro, no such restrictions appear in the El Toro Airport System Master Plan. Instead, planners proposed voluntary, non-binding agreements with each airline, limiting the flights of aircraft during late-night and early morning hours. Since the Federal Aviation Administration isn't involved with these agreements, it's unclear how many—if any—airlines will go for this scheme.
10 No commercial airlines have expressed any interest to the county in either moving their operations from John Wayne Airport or opening additional, redundant gates at El Toro.
11 County El Toro spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tom Wall (USMC, Retired). Paid $5,000 per month to speak to civic groups on the county's plans for El Toro, Wall is also executive director of the Newport Beach-based pro-airport group Orange County Airport Alliance. Wall, who flew helicopters in the Marines and has never logged a single hour in a commercial airliner (except, we presume, as a passenger), likes to tell crowds that El Toro "is in fact an international airport today." When faced with questions about commercial pilots' unions criticizing El Toro's eastern-facing Runway 7 for its nearly constant tail winds, Wall typically responds with the authority of one who would know that "wind direction is not even an issue when talking about today's commercial airliners."
12 The county's June 4 and 5, 1999, series of demonstration flights in and out of El Toro designed to "calm the fears" of residents worried that a future El Toro International Airport would destroy their quality of life actually did nothing of the sort. In fact, the tests were bogus from the outset, producing "no usable data," as then-El Toro program manager Courtney Wiercioch acknowledged afterward. Residents still rose up in indignation, even though the test planes were lightly loaded and flew along special flight tracks and used departure procedures that significantly cut their noise.
13 We have no real affection for 5th District Supervisor Tom Wilson—his relationship with Don Bren's Irvine Co. is a little too cozy for our tastes—but his getting passed over for chairman of the board twice is ridiculous. What makes the three pro-airport supervisors on the board so terrified of anti-airport Wilson sitting in the center seat? Is their hold over the airport planning process that tenuous?