The Year in Killing El Toro

Photo courtesy NASA websiteThe county's vaunted El Toro International Airport, once proposed to handle something like 30 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo per year, finally at last for now and all time is dead.

The death blow, popularly thought of as March 2, when voters passed Measure W, replacing the county's aviation dreams with the far more popular Great Park, didn't actually come until the next day. That's when U.S. Navy officials announced they were sick of the eight-year battle and were going to auction off the base—for non-aviation uses.

But a near-decade of momentum doesn't halt on a mere Navy press release. County Supervisor Chuck Smith, one of the staunchest pro-airport voices, threatened he'd put the airport back on the November ballot. Newport Beach and Santa Ana Heights gadflies threatened to put their "V Plan" airport proposal on the ballot. Other boosters muttered of maneuvering El Toro into LA's sphere of influence.

None of it came to pass. Smith backed off, the Irvine Co. killed the V Plan because of the volume of traffic it would have sent over their Newport Coast and East Orange neighborhoods, and LA wisely stayed out of the fight, which today centers on how many homes developers can squeeze into Irvine's "Great Park."

Notably, George Argyros—the biggest airport bankroller of them all, President George W. Bush's $30 million man in Madrid, the man who put the "ass" in ambassador—said nothing. Three million bucks he funneled into airport ballot measures, and he doesn't even have the decency to cry in public.

Of course, some in Newport Beach insist on living in the past. Periodically, Newporters still weigh in with their impatience that El Toro International hasn't yet opened.

"When the planned El Toro International Airport opens, and its 30 million annual passengers are served, John Wayne Airport will drop to 5 million annual passengers, which it should to get people out of the noise zone," wrote Newport Beach resident Donald Nyre in the Dec. 13 Daily Pilot. "The beauty of opening El Toro, which basically is ready to go, is that no longer will housing developers control the agenda. . . . Their Measure W is a flimsy argument. It's time to turn on the lights and start the flights at El Toro."

Sorry, Don, that ain't never gonna happen; never, never, never . . . we think.


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