Letter dated April 2, 2001 and published in the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2001
April 2, 2001
Letters to the Editor
Los Angeles Times – Orange County Edition
Your April 1 editorial on the County of Orange's lack of technical candor about an airline airport at El Toro is right on target. The County's airport planners were quite interested in involving the pilots in the planning process so long as we saw it their way. Once we recommended in writing that they realign the runways to conform with the model at Ontario Airport they cut-off any further communications with us.
The County ignores the input of the pilots and anyone else with an objective technical, safety, and efficiency analysis of their plan. They virtually enshrine the FAA as the sole fount of safety wisdom. If the day comes when the FAA takes public exception to the County's plan then we suspect even the FAA will be deemed by the County to [be] misdirected at that point.
The FAA establishes minimum safety standards for airports. Further, at this stage of planning the regional FAA offices have not even addressed the issues of airline efficiency and whether the County's restrictive plans will permit the propose airport to be a positive element in the national airspace system. That is a judgement that FAA headquarters will someday have to make, but they simply won't supercede the regional offices at this time - although they very will may have to at some future time.
Airlines, aircraft manufacturers, air traffic controllers, and pilots make the nation's airline system work. The FAA planners and policy makers are just one element in the total picture and, without full industry support, the FAA often does less than a sterling job.
Sadly, the County is placing noise politics and votes far ahead of a sound plan for El Toro. Although ALPA would prefer to see the runways at El Toro realigned, the airport could work at some lesser number of annual operations with the existing runways, but not without a second all-weather approach and landing system from the west, and not without takeoffs into prevailing winds. Finally, departures over the high terrain to the north would be an accident waiting to happen.
Very truly yours,
Captain Jon Russell, Chairman
Western Pacific-South Safety Committee
Air Line Pilots Association
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