John Wayne Airport Changes Flight Route, But Will It Change the Field's Scary Rep?

John Wayne Airport--which already has a reputation for being one of the world's scariest because of its steep, vertical takeoffs and throttle-cutting procedures--will have pilots essentially threading a tighter needle beginning next month.

A new flight path called STREL will push aircraft into the skies directly over the middle of Newport Beach's Back Bay. That route replaces DUUKE 1 and DUUKE 2, which had planes flying over the east side of the bay.

Courtesy of John Wayne Airport
Which way to the center of the Back Bay?

DUUKE 1 and DUUKE 2 generated noise complaints from residents in the Upper Newport Bay and Irvine Terrace neighborhoods soon after planes tested the routes last summer. So, the FAA moved the path slightly to the west--and then received complaints from neighborhoods hugging the Lower Bay and Dover Shores.

Besides dispensing with the bad mojo of the "DUUKE" names, STREL aims to keep planes from JWA right over the middle of the bay before making their noisy turns above, hopefully, water and not residences.

"Based on the results,"  FAA spokesman Ian Gregor tells the Daily Pilot, "we think this procedure will address the concerns that the residents around the airport have expressed."

If not, he'll certainly hear about it. Newport Beach residents and city leaders have been battling the FAA over noise and expansion plans for decades, with the compromise being curfews and the aforementioned scary take-off procedures. By keeping everyone relatively content, the FAA and county of Orange, which operates the airport, managed to negotiate a third terminal, now under construction.

"None of these folks had any sympathy for South County residents when Newport Beach was pushing for a major international airport at El Toro, with flights low over thousands of homes," Len Krasner, editor of the anti-El Toro International Airport El Toro Info Site, keenly observed when STREL was first proposed.

Let's see if pilots and the flying public notice anything different. Last summer, they ranked JWA (SNA on your baggage tags) one of the 10 scariest airports in the world.

If on-board cocktail sales rise, we'll have our answer.


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