Pact Allows More Airport Passengers

Laguna Beach residents who daily wake to the sound of planes overhead just after 7 a.m. likely take little comfort in knowing that the onslaught could begin earlier.

A curfew agreement, which stipulates take-off times no earlier than 7 a.m., is up for renewal and part of negotiations underway with John Wayne Airport, according to Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, who updated Laguna Beach’s City Council last week on the proposed terms.

Kiff said in order to extend the 7 a.m. curfew agreement until 2035, negotiators had to offer concessions elsewhere, allowing the cap on annual passengers to increase to 11.8 million over time, and possibly as high as 12.5 million. Negotiations also allowed for an increase in the number of loudest flights.

The current settlement, amended and extended a decade ago, includes a prohibition on commercial airplane departures from John Wayne between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The agreement also limits traffic to 10.8 million passengers annually and expires in 2015. Though the curfew itself doesn’t expire until 2020, its renewal has been negotiated along with the agreement’s other terms.

The proposed revised pact, which must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, needs the approval of county supervisors and a Federal Aviation Authority exemption from noise and capacity restrictions.

“The curfew was and is our number one priority, that’s why we pushed for that extension and gave on a couple of other things,” said Kiff.

Laguna Beach is among 10 cites countywide that, while not a part of the agreement, are affected by it and formed the Corridor Cities Coalition to support it.

Laguna council member Toni Iseman, who with council member Steve Dicterow is responsible for investigating airport related noise concerns, asked if complaints of Laguna constituents about recent increases in noise were echoed in Newport.

While previously one of every 10 flights overhead was heard by his constituents, now four or five reverberate, Kiff confirmed. He said eastbound flights that used to fan out as they headed out over the ocean and turned back now “are narrowed down to almost a funnel to get out and over the bay, and I know they follow that same curve as soon as they turn around and come back over Laguna.”

This may be partly explained by the FAA’s new procedure in 2011 that reduced the fanning of flight tracks.

Still, Laguna Beach resident Wolfram Blume, who flies a private plane from John Wayne, said there might be more to it. In tracking John Wayne departures via an online flight watch web site, he noted that the real-time trajectories pictured on screen differed from the published standard departure route.

While the published departure showed a flight path turning over the ocean and crossing Dana Point’s shoreline, actual flights seemed to consistently turn closer to Laguna, Blume said. He pointed out that any change from the published departure course was not up to the pilot, but had to be proscribed by the air traffic controllers.

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