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Weighing noise versus safety at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport

Should the takeoff change at John Wayne Airport?
Should the takeoff change at John Wayne Airport?
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Residents of the Dover Shores neighborhood of Newport Beach can tell you exactly how much noise a Boeing 737 makes on take off...a lot. They’ve been listening to it for decades, as their homes lie directly below the takeoff pattern at Orange County’s John Wayne International Airport, and they’ve fought tooth and nail to restrict the deafening sound of those jet engines.

Their protestations have led John Wayne to institute a unique takeoff procedure that passengers don’t quickly forget, in which pilots of commercial flights climb steeply before powering down the engines to reduce noise as the plane coasts over the city of Newport Beach, then, as it get’s past the beach and over the Pacific, pilots gun the engines again and complete the climb. It’s a bit like a rollercoaster, and occasionally on an outbound flight the person sitting next to you may gasp in fear, but it does reduce noise pollution on the ground.

Local residents also won a curfew, so no flights can take-off before 7:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m., and that, too, has made the noise more tolerable. But if the FAA approves a new take-off procedure called Required Navigation Performance, which uses computers and GPS to guide a plane on a precise takeoff or landing route, flights taking off at John Wayne could be guided not only through that steep take off, but also on a series of banking maneuvers to guide planes over the local wetlands, where birds and squirrels are less likely to complain to their city council members. The upshot here would be less noise in the upscale Newport neighborhoods, but the down side could be a complicated take-off that’s both scary for passengers, and potentially dangerous if a mechanical malfunction were to occur as a jet climbed and banked.

Have you flown out of John Wayne recently? Does the take off scare you? Do you think adding some twists to the steep climb to lessen the noise for Newport residents is a fair trade? Does the idea of computers being relied on more and more in commercial aviation make you nervous, or do you think tech has a place how you get from the OC to NYC?

Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts and former United Airlines pilot

Dave Kiff, city manager of Newport Beach, which lies directly below the flight path of departures from John Wayne International Airport