No News Is News

This week, the price for a single copy of the Los Angeles Times doubled to 50 cents. The hike reflected not merely the rising cost of paper, said Times president and publisher John Puerner, but also "the high quality of the Times' journalism."

The hike came just four days after a Jean O. Pasco El Toro story that Puerner surely could not have envisioned when he made his pronouncement. Titled "Pilots Union Eases El Toro Opposition," the March 1 story implies that the El Toro opposition is crumbling—a spin that can only benefit airport boosters.

But in actuality, Pasco's piece fails to live up to its headline—in fact, it fails to live up to the definition of a story.

According to Pasco, the 59,000-member Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has "modified" its earlier opposition to the county's proposed El Toro International Airport and now supports building an airport at El Toro "provided it is operated safely and efficiently." If true, this would spell certain doom for the South County cities that have been playing up El Toro's design weaknesses—with ALPA's support—for the past five years.

Pasco noted that ALPA would support El Toro if the county scraps risky eastern departures on Runway 7 and allows pilots to take off to the west over Irvine as well as make a left turn after taking off to the north. The county opposes all these measures for political as well as financial reasons.

In fact, this is precisely the position ALPA has held for years. Ignoring that history is either stupidity or deliberate political spin. Consider the following excerpts from earlier ALPA letters to the county:

• "ALPA remains in favor of a properly developed and safe plan for the El Toro Airport, one that maintains an acceptable level of safety." (Captain Jon Russell, ALPA Western Pacific regional safety chairman, July 25, 2000)

• "Takeoffs to the northwest . . . should be limited to head wind or calm wind conditions, and a turn should be made to the northwest promptly after departure to avoid Loma Ridge." (Russell, July 2, 1998)

• "A 'world-class' international airport will not be possible with the existing arrival and departure flight paths, much less the present runway configuration." (Tom Young, ALPA charting and instrumental procedures committee chairman, July 23, 1997)

• "To ensure clarity of our views, it should be understood that ALPA will steadfastly oppose the use of El Toro as a commercial airport if takeoffs to the east on runways 7L and/or 7R are a condition of its use as such a facility." (Russell, Oct. 11, 1996)

Let's recap. For five years, ALPA personnel have been telling the county that everything would be cool if they'd just do three things: ditch eastern takeoffs on Runway 7, allow pilots to take off to the west over Irvine, and let pilots turn left after taking off to the north to avoid Loma Ridge and other scary terrain. Then, on Feb. 28, ALPA sent out yet another release reiterating all of that, which Pasco included in a front-page story that gave a much-needed boost to those who want to cram an airport into the South County.

In other news: blimp attacks down.


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