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New airport routes may still be noise nuisance

Some Newport residents may realize a new John Wayne Airport route, called STREL, will continue under agency mandates despite noise complaints.

June 28, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

When a hospital or a school fails so miserably, officials usually rename it. The stakes in this case may not be life or death, but the Federal Aviation Administration has completely re-named the take-off procedure at John Wayne Airport.

Now called STREL, the proposed route could be better received than its predecessors, DUUKE 1 and DUUKE 2. Newport Beach residents complained that those routes resulted in more noisy flights over their homes. Administrators are now back to the drawing board with their satellite-based flight navigation system.

But the proposed changes are already causing consternation among a new set of residents: those on the west side of the Back Bay, especially in the Dover Shores community. But their (anticipated) noise complaints, the latest in the history of John Wayne Airport, may fall on deaf ears. FAA and airport officials say that flights are within legal limits and they've already been extremely accommodating.

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"We're modifying the procedure because we want to be responsive to the community," said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman. "We've really gone the extra mile in this case."

The FAA's goal is to direct flights down the center of the Back Bay, Gregor said. In April the agency shifted planes onto a course about 100 feet west of the previous route, but residents in eastside neighborhoods of The Bluffs and Irvine Terrace said flights were a big nuisance.

Now, Gregor said, they want to shift planes another 250 feet to the west, straight down the center line.

That's where the west side residents come in.

"The Back Bay is not straight, so they will end up coming over Dover Shores," said Anders Folkedal, president of the Dover Shores Community Assn.

Folkedal owns an aeronautical engineering company and said planes should disperse across the Back Bay, so some would fly over the west bluff and some over the east.

"The best answer is to fan them out and give everyone a little taste of it," said Folkedal.

That's how the departures operated before the satellite navigation system was implemented in September, and Gregor said new methods made the flight path more specific. This resulted in a concentration of planes flying above the east side of the bay, according to Gregor and airport representatives.

"Even with the DUUKE 2, we still see concentration on the east side of the bay," said Courtney Wiercioch, the airport's deputy director for public affairs, referring to changes made in April.

The airport, she said, has acted as an advocate for the city when dealing with the FAA. Neither the city nor Orange County, which operates the airport, has the authority to define flight paths, she said.

"The FAA could declare victory that they are within the federal guidelines," said Leslie Daigle, chairwoman of the city's Aviation Committee and the councilmember who represents the district that includes The Bluffs. "But we appreciate them working with us."

As long as the new route is within the range of the pre-satellite routes, then the FAA doesn't have to perform an in-depth environmental impact analysis, said Gregor.

That doesn't satisfy residents of either side of the bay, though.

"We're trying to balance a very, very tight situation," said Don Webb, the councilman representing Dover Shores and other neighborhoods on the west side, who spoke at last week's City Council meeting.

FAA officials hope to have the STREL procedure in place by January.

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