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Apodaca: Jet noise should take back seat to safety

September 06, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

The Newport Beach City Council wants to change the way planes take off from John Wayne Airport and has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to consider its proposal for a new departure procedure.

The FAA said it would consider the request. I hope it also tells the city to cool its jets.

The council, of course, is responding to homeowner concerns about jet noise, perpetually the source of consternation and controversy in our community. The noise issue has prompted city leaders to repeatedly lobby for changes and restrictions on flying procedures; just two years ago the departure system known as STREL was introduced for about half the flights.

The realigning of takeoff patterns is just one way the city has attempted to mitigate noise. There's also the famously steep ascent followed by a stomach-sinking throttling back on power that has long been required of jets flying out of John Wayne. We also have a strict curfew that bans commercial takeoffs between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. most days.

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These measures — coupled with the airport's relatively short runway and location in a densely populated region with congested skies — has lent to John Wayne's reputation as a particularly difficult place for pilots to maneuver in and out of.

Yet none of the noise-reducing steps has gone far enough to satisfy disgruntled residents. So the council has asked for new takeoff procedures that would require pilots to engage in a series of turns — the exact number has yet to be made clear — in an attempt to better avoid flying over homes by following more precisely the curves of Newport's Back Bay.

The idea, which would utilize advanced satellite guidance technology, has been variously referred to as a "zig-zag" or "bob-and-weave" pattern.

Aviation officials say it's more of an S curve. Call me crazy, but bobbing, weaving, zigging, zagging and curving don't sound like things I want planes to do, whether I'm in them or under them.

I realize that my lack of enthusiasm for the proposal will probably result in some angry responses. So let me be clear: I live beside the Back Bay and hate the jet noise too. It disrupts phone conversations, TV shows and weekend nap time. The thunder from some takeoffs rattles my nerves as well as my windows, marring what otherwise is an ideal existence in my lovely community.

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