JWA capacity controls
February 1985 – The Board of Supervisors certified EIR 508 and approved the 1985 Master Plan for John Wayne Airport. It provided for 10.2 million annual passengers (MAP). The City of Newport Beach and two citizens groups initiated litigation against the plan.
November 1985 – The county and the plaintiffs entered into a litigation settlement plan limiting the airport to 337,400 square feet of terminal, 8,400 parking spaces, 14 loading bridges, 8.4 MAP and other restrictions through 2005.
December 2000 – The county and Newport Beach began to study
extending certain restrictions beyond 2005.
October 2001- During the debate over El Toro reuse, the county
certified EIR 573 which included Alternative F for JWA serving 14 MAP
within its existing land perimeter.
February 2002 – The Board of Supervisors approved EIR 582 and
selected the smallest expansion option, Scenario 1 as their preferred
alternative. Scenario 1
increased the number of gates from 14 to 18 and maximum passengers to
Alternative D, the largest option studied, would have eliminated all restrictions except for the night time curfew and maximum single event noise limit and was estimated to accommodate up to 13.9 MAP with 24 gates. As a result of the introduction of quieter aircraft, alternative D had a smaller noise impact footprint than the 1985 Master Plan.
December 2002 – 10 then current JWA airlines and 2 potential
airlines commented on the selected Scenario 1 and requested additional
"opportunities". In exchange for an agreement that the airlines would
not oppose the project before the FAA, the parties to the Settlement
Agreement approved Final EIR 582, Addendum EIR 582-1. It increased the
number of gates to 20 and maximum allowed passengers in two stages to
MAP. Following the approval of the airlines, the FAA approved the
settlement as conforming to federal law including the 1990 Airport
Noise and Capacity Act. See more below . . .
October 2004 – A Supplemental EIR was certified accepting
construction plans for implementation of the most recent (8th)
amendment to the Settlement Agreement.
History of the Airport:
John Wayne Airport originated in the 1920’s as a private landing strip on Irvine Company land. In 1939, the airport became publicly owned, through a land swap between the Irvine Company and the County. It served temporarily as a military base during World War II and was returned to the County with the deed stipulation that it remain open to aviation or other non manufacturing and non industrial uses.
A 22,000 square foot terminal was built in 1967 to accommodate 0.4 million annual passengers (MAP). There were other smaller additions made leading up to the major Airport Improvement Project of the late 1980’s.
The Orange County Airport was renamed in honor of John Wayne is 1979.
A 1985 Master Plan for the airport showed that passenger demand increased from 3,685,000 in 1970 to 7,142,000 in 1980, and "unconstrained passenger demand was projected to increase to 14,130,000 in 1995."Litigation: Starting in about 1968, the County became the defendant in numerous civil damage actions “where individuals residing to the south of JWA claimed damage and injury to their persons and property, alleged to be caused by the noise and other environmental effects of aircraft operations at JWA.” (Board of Supervisors Resolution 85-1232)
From 1981 on, the County on one side, and the City of Newport Beach, with two residents’ groups, the Airport Working Group, and Stop Polluting Our Newport, on the other side, were engaged in litigation in both state and federal courts.
1985 Settlement Agreement:
In order to end the litigation, the County, and the City of Newport Beach with the Airport Working Group and Stop Polluting Our Newport, reached the Airport Settlement Agreement of 1985. This was a court approved stipulation as to mutually acceptable regulations for the development of John Wayne. The Final Judgment of City of Newport Beach vs. County of Orange was filed December 13, 1985 in U.S. District Court, Case No. CV85-1542 TJH (Mcx).
The Agreement limited virtually every aspect of airport operations.
The Agreement stated that “Recognizing that JWA is incapable of
satisfying the demand for air travel in Orange County, this settlement
is also designed to permit studies regarding possible future
development of an additional airport
to serve Orange County.” The County will not prevent a qualified
or consortium from seeking funding for studies concerning a site for an
airport. While the Agreement refers to studies of other sites within
County, it does not appear to preclude study of sites outside of the
that could help satisfy the aviation demand.
The Settlement Agreement was modified in 1995 to allow Federal Express and UPS to operate one daily flight each for air cargo.
Click here for the full text of the original 1985 Settlement Agreement. Adobe Acrobat required.
Incremental Expansion of John Wayne:
Following the 1985 settlement, the Airport Improvement Project was begun.
The Airport issued $242,440,000 in Airport Revenue Bonds in 1987, due in the year 2018, to finance the construction. It was the largest public works project in the County's history. The bonds are payable solely from revenue at the airport and are not general obligations of the County.
The bond indenture provides that if the county operates another airport, (such as El Toro), which causes John Wayne to be unable to meet the debt service requirements, then the the debt obligation will be transferred to the new airport. County staff has also stated that outstanding JWA debt at shutdown could be repaid from cash reserves set aside for capital improvements.
The Thomas F. Riley Terminal (Named for a former member of the Board of Supervisors.) was opened to the public on September 16, 1990. It conforms to the maximum size allowed by the Agreement.
In 1999, the county added 2,000 more parking spaces, at a cost of
El Toro as an alternate to JWA:
Newport Beach fought for many years to promote an airport at El Toro. Containment or closure of John Wayne to commercial aviation were the likely outcomes from building a commercial airport at El Toro.
On December 11, 1996, the Board of Supervisors approved Environmental Impact Report 563 and a Community Reuse Plan that called for the closing of John Wayne Airport to "all commercial aviation operations", if El Toro was built.
As a political concession, the Supervisors then directed county
a two-airport system. In April 1998, the 3 member majority on the
of Supervisors approved such a
with John Wayne and El Toro linked by a "people mover". This
was later scrapped.
The airline industry has given numerous technical and economic
reasons why a two-commercial-airport system would not fly. For a more complete review of the
issue click here.
In 2001, an airspace
for the FAA showed severe conflict between El Toro and John
In EIR 573, John Wayne was projected to shrink to about 5 million annual passengers. Many expected it to lose commercial viability and close if El Toro was approved.In 2002, county voters passed Measure W which changed the County General Plan to preclude airport reuse of the former Marine air base. The Board of Supervisors subsequently rescinded the El Toro EIR's and Community Reuse Plan for El Toro.
Settlement Agreement Amendment of 2002
In 2000-01, during the fight over El Toro, the City of Newport Beach
proposed that the Settlement
be extended until 2025 with no changes.
EIR 582 subsequently studied several alternatives. Scenario 3 proposed
an airport layout with 24 gates. The county adopted the smallest
expansion alternative, Scenario 1 to increase the
number of gates from 14 to 18 and to increase the passenger MAP cap
from 8.4 to 9.8.
Following negotiations with the airlines using the airport, a larger
It was approved by the FAA on December 31, 2002.
The settlement agreement allows 10.3 MAP until 2011. The cap then
increases to 10.8 MAP until December 31, 2015 and remains there unless
changed by the county through the CEQA (EIR) process.
JWA’s future potential:
EIR 573, the County examined but did not support alternatives for
expanding John Wayne to
and 25 million annual passengers.
gives the unconstrained
capacity of the airport runway system as 13.9 MAP with the current
large percentage of general aviation flights as a factor. (See
Toro Community Reuse Plan, Appendix C. page 21 and EIR 582
John Wayne Airport's ability to serve a greater percentage of the
growing air travel needs of Orange County residents and business is
limited in several ways:
First and foremost, the airport's capacity is limited by Board of Supervisor policy. It is the Board's policy, and that of the voters as evidenced by the defeat of the El Toro airport proposal, to serve most of the county's air travel needs at airports in other counties. The Board, by agreements with Newport Beach, creates numerical limits on the number of a annual passengers (the MAP cap) and other JWA restrictions. The Board also provides policy direction to the airport manager for balancing the transportation needs of the flying public against the competing environmental needs of those who live near the airport.
If the MAP cap were raised, the number of passenger gates to load and unload aircraft would likely be the next limitation on the airport. JWA reports that it has the highest ratio of passengers to gates of any comparable airport in the nation. While JWA's single commercial runway imposes limitations on the airport, San Diego's single runway airport serves almost twice as many passengers by providing more gates.
In 2002, Environmental Impact Report EIR 582 examined several
scenarios for expanding John Wayne's terminal. Scenario 3 provided a
layout plan for 24 gates and a lifting of the passenger caps. Scenario
3 "assumed" that traffic could rise to 12.3 MAP if there was no change
in fleet mix, load factor remained at 0.66 (which is too low by today's
standards) and additional flights were distributed throughout the day
as at present with no effort made to add traffic at slow times to
better utilize the facility.
However, Newport Beach successfully lobbied other "corridor cities"
and the county to choose the smallest EIR alternative, Scenario 1 with
18 gates, and to keep a cap on passenger utilization.
The allowed number of gates was subsequently increased to 20 at the insistence of the airlines and after Newport Beach concluded that the additional gates would have little impact on its residents.
In 2005, plans were approved for a $512 million expansion of the airport to add 300,000 square feet of terminal, six more loading bridges for a total of 20, 2,500 parking spaces, a customs area and other land side improvements. Nighttime curfews and single event noise limits would be unchanged. The cost estimate was subsequently increased. There is no published projection of what increased passenger capacity would result from this project. It is anticipated that constructing the 20-gate design may foreclose the airport's ability to add more at a later date.
Charles Griffin, a Newport Beach activist who is technically
knowledgeable about the airport, opinions that the new $1/2 billion
expansion program for JWA is "not justified" economically because it would
add only 1 more gate and not 6 as generally reported. He figures
that 5 of the new loading bridges would replace existing ground level
gates so that the total number of gates increases from the current 19
A former airport commissioner tells us that loading bridges have a greater thru put than ground level gates so there is some capacity gain, but no one is saying how much.
The city of Newport Beach sought to negotiate long-term
restrictions on airport growth, including the length of the runway, by
combining the airport and several
unrelated issues in a
"spheres issue" package proposed to the county. The
concept was to offer the county economic incentives to give the city a
veto over runway extensions and expansion of the airport perimeter. In
October, 2006, the Board of Supervisors agreed to grant the city runway
without setting any economic conditions or obtaining any meaningful
city also seeks to maintain the level of general aviation use of
John Wayne as an obstacle to greater commercial aviation use. General
aviation occupies a substantial acreage at the airport and constitutes
a majority of the runway operations.
The Settlement Agreement, as amended in 2002-3, limits the airport's
maximum utilization to 10.8 MAP from 2011 through 2015. The limitations
continue thereafter until modified by action of the Board of
Supervisors by an EIR prepared in accordance with the California
Environmental Quality Act
With the passage of Measure W, and rejection of the El Toro project,
Los Angeles leaders are pressing Orange County to carry more of the
aviation burden. Efforts are underway to reactivate the Southern
California Regional Airport Authority. It is possible that this could
result in pressure to revisit John Wayne
airport's passenger service potential.
Prepared by the El Toro Info Site from court
Board of Supervisors' resolutions, airport revenue bond disclosures,
airport staff publications. Updated July 24, 2007