City of Newport Beach and FAA Reach Tentative Agreement on John Wayne Airport Flight Paths

Today, Newport Beach Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and the Newport Beach City Council colleagues announced the City has reached a tentative agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the flight paths from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA). The agreement remains subject to the approval of the FAA and the U.S. Department of Justice but was a collaboration between the City Council and the FAA’s design staff in Renton, Washington.

But first, background info on this whole high-flying situation … 

If you live in idyllic Newport Beach, you know air quality and noise are big deals. After all, the loudest it gets around here is when a big swell rolls through, crashing against the shoreline to the delight of stoked surfers across the Peninsula.

The City Council of Newport Beach understands the immediacy of these very real concerns—and their very real effects on property values—and that’s why in 2016 members unanimously voted to sue the FAA. The lawsuit arrived after the FAA proposed an airspace redesign project called “NextGen” that, as the City argued, could be used to significantly change the historical flight paths down the middle of the Upper Newport Bay. Under NextGen, fight paths for planes departing from SNA could have theoretically been routed across a majority of the city, from the tip of Newport Coast to the Santa Ana River.

Nope, nope nope, said the City Council, and thus the suit was filed. After more than a year of litigation and research, an agreement has finally been reached.

So, what does this agreement say? Well, three major things you need to know:

  1. The FAA agreed that the NextGen flight paths will stay between the existing SNA noise monitors and will design and study one of the nation’s first precision-based curved departure procedures for SNA. This procedure, planned for implementation in the coming weeks, would allow planes to follow the curves of Upper newport Bay, avoiding as many residential areas as possible.
  2. The FAA also agreed to ensure all future changes in fight paths will be fully analyzed anew under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  3. Lastly, additional protections were secured against excessive “early offshore turns” that if allowed, would bring certain departures closer to Corona del Mar and Newport Coast.

“The litigation was a bold step for the City Council in 2016 … and it is coming to a successful legal conclusion,” said Mayor Duffield. “Protecting our community against the negative impacts of the airport is the most important thing we do here in Newport Beach.”