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
28 To promote their vaunted airport, county PR flacks have spun some of the emptiest promises we've seen since the bankruptcy. Did you know that "our continued prosperity depends on our ability to become a full-fledged member of the global community"? Or that the proposed airport will "help the economy soar" and "lift the spirits of recreation-minded residents"? Even if the county gets its way, the airport won't open until 2005—but can we have those airsick bags now?
29 Chronic exposure to jet noise is dangerous. According to Arline Bronzaft, a noise specialist at the City University of New York, listening to airplanes day and night can raise blood pressure and cause psychiatric disorders. In addition, a 1995 study by Barbara Luke at the University of Michigan concluded that sustained noise can stimulate stress hormones in pregnant women, leading to premature contractions.
30 Residents around El Toro will hear 80 to 90 decibels from every airplane landing and taking off. That's really loud. But the county insists that nearby residents "will experience little or no noise." That's because state law only requires them to analyze noise averaged over a 24-hour period, as opposed to single-event noise—imagine the sounds of a car crash in your living room averaged out over the course of the day. The result, of course, is that the county benefits from mishandled newspaper accounts saying residents will only have to face 65 decibels of noise from the airport.
31 Page 1-6 of the county's 10,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Report lists unresolved issues surrounding El Toro. The most important: "Method of delivering aviation fuel to El Toro for the project." In other words, the county is about to start building a $3 billion airport, and their planners have no clue how they're going to get 14 million gallons of jet fuel to that massive tank farm they spent so much time and money designing.
32 Sleek, modern airports like Denver International typically pop up in flat, empty areas far away from population centers and inconvenient terrain. El Toro is an exception: not only do hundreds of thousands of people live within a couple of miles of its tarmac, but hills also surround the base on three sides. Only the base's western edge lacks rising terrain, but county officials say no aircraft will take off in that direction—doing so would hurl planes directly at John Wayne Airport.
33 The nation's two largest commercial pilots' unions, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association—which between them represent thousands of pilots —oppose the county's proposed El Toro runway layout. Their reasons: El Toro's runways slope upward into rising terrain, making engine-out procedures (when an aircraft loses an engine while taking off) tricky and scary.
34 In April 1998, the aviation firm Jeppesen Sanderson handed its two-volume Jeppesen Analyses report on El Toro to the county. That report, containing hundreds of pages of tables detailing departure weights for every conceivable airliner under every conceivable temperature situation, proves that El Toro's eastern-facing Runway 7 —slated to handle 62 percent of all departures—forces significant weight penalties on all aircraft. The report also makes clear these penalties don't exist on other runways. County officials' continued insistence that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Runway 7 has led many critics to wonder whether they are stupid or just plain dishonest.
35 For an airport slated to move 2.2 million tons of cargo every year by 2020, it's too bad air cargo companies couldn't care less about El Toro. "UPS is very pleased with its operations at John Wayne Airport," wrote an official from that company to the county on Jan. 18, 1999. When Airborne Express submitted its interim cargo plan for El Toro, it called for a mere 10 operations per week—four of which would require only a single-engine prop plane. Even Federal Express, which supports an airport at El Toro, called for only a dozen operations per week. Of course, interim cargo at El Toro is now dead, but it's doubtful any of these companies care.
36 "I really doubt that those runways as they are will be your runways," said Mary Schiavo, former federal Department of Transportation inspector general, on Oct. 1, 1998. "They will have to be rotated." In other words, the runways point in the wrong directions and ideally would run parallel to the 5 freeway. Schiavo, a nationally recognized authority on airport and airline safety, also predicted that because John Wayne Airport is just seven miles from El Toro, it would close once El Toro opens.
37 County officials like to say that, unless you live in a zone exposed to 65 decibels of noise averaged over 24 hours (called 65 CNEL), you won't hear anything from El Toro. Yet this completely contradicts evidence from John Wayne Airport, where the residents who complain the most about airplane noise to that airport's noise office live in Balboa and Corona del Mar—four miles from the John Wayne CNEL zone. For the hundreds of thousands of residents who live similar distances from El Toro, good luck.
38 "People ask, 'Where are people that are on welfare right now going to find jobs?'" said 2nd District Supervisor, airport booster and New Voice of the Downtrodden Jim Silva on the Feb. 2, 1998, episode of KOCE's Real Orange news program. "Well, there are a lot of low-skill jobs with every airport that will take care of a lot of communities that have a lot of people who have a hard time getting jobs."