John Wayne Airport Named Among 10 Scariest

John Wayne Airport is one of the 10 scariest airports in the world.

That's the opinion of "a couple of pilots, along with SmarterTravel readers," who provided "their insights and experiences with difficult takeoffs and landings" to the travel site.

SmartTraveler explains why John Wayne (or SNA as it states on your bag tags) lands at No. 10 on its top 10 scariest airport list:

Strict noise reduction requirements may not seem scary at first, but if you're not expecting engine cutbacks during takeoff you might be spooked. According to Jenny Wedge, public relations manager at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, "Due to its close proximity to nearby communities, JWA has one of the most stringent aircraft access and noise monitoring programs in the United States, if not the world." Pilots begin their takeoffs at close to full power, then incline quickly and steeply before reducing engine power. "It's like a space shuttle liftoff," says Facebook follower Elizabeth Conrad. [Pilot and Ask the Pilot blogger Patrick] Smith notes that passengers contact him about this airport all the time, some even claiming the pilots turn off the engines after take off. But although the procedure seems unusual, he says "there's nothing that the plane does that is not within its capabilities."

Nose up, nose up, nose up ...
Nose up, nose up, nose up ...
Courtesy of John Wayne Airport

John Wayne Airport spokeswoman Rachel Gibson reiterates SNA is safe to the Orange County Register:

"We continue to operate a safe, secure travel environment here at the airport. The takeoff procedure is related to working closely with the community regarding our noise ordinance requirement. There have been no incidents, and we continue to operate safely out of John Wayne Airport."

Hopefully her message will get through to those who left comments to SmartTraveler's scary round-up.

"I flew out of John Wayne once [and it] scarred [sic] the hell [out] of me even after the pilot had warned us. Don't much care for that feeling," wrote acoulman.

"I frequently fly into John Wayne (for its convenience), but I do feel extremely uncomfortable when the engines are reduced (for noise)," observed Mae. ". . . I really do feel that cutting back on the engines to curtail the noise in Orange County is too risky (even though it has been approved--probably because the big money residents & businesses have made their demands loud and clear)."

"I totally agree on the Santa Ana take off," lacrrc added. "If you don't know about it then you can really freak out. . . . Latest takeoff out of there we started at full throttle and then the cabin pressurization wouldn't allow us to climb beyond 15,000 feet. . . . We had to circle around the mountains and desert for 90 minutes burning off fuel so we could land at LAX to get repairs. I now go into LAX and drive to OC--my heart can't take it anymore."

Recalled Jack38, "One time after a particularly bouncy landing in which the aircraft actually became airborne again before slamming back down on the runway, the captain came on the announcing system and said something to this effect: 'Sorry about that landing, folks. It was all due to the first officer--it was the asphalt!' I'm sure that the co-pilot's effort to stick the landing was due to the shortness of the SNA runway, where the brakes and full reverse thrusters must be employed to avoid ending up on the 73 freeway at the end of the tarmac."

But Boraxo expressed the opinion of a lot of commenters who felt another Southern California airport was missing from the list: "San Diego is far more treacherous than John Wayne."

Orange County's airport has had a bad rep since at least 1991, when ABC's 20/20 called John Wayne one of the five most dangerous airports in the world. So at least give it credit for now falling to No. 10.

One through nine, according to SmartTraveler, are: Toncontin International in Honduras; Gibraltar Airport; Nantucket Memorial in Massachusetts; Paro International in Bhutan; Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia; Barra Airport in Scotland; La Aurora International in Guatemala; LaGuardia in New York City; and Wellington International in New Zealand.


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