More Planes Overhead


STATEMENT of Captain Stanley G. Sanders II.

CREDENTIALS: member of safety committee of a major airline, 30,000 hours flight time, 23 years flying experience with a major airline, former navy fighter pilot, currently supplying technical information to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.

Date: October 11, 1996

From: Captain Stanley G. Sanders II

To: Paul Lanning, Environmental Management Agency, County of Orange, Ca.


The MCAS ELTORO Community Reuse Plan proposes that 70% of the takeoffs would be on runway 7, and 30% would be on runway 34 for noise abatement purposes.

Since takeoffs on both of these runways would be into steeply rising mountainous terrain, and generally with a tailwind, this proposal is marginally safe in the best conditions, and impossible in the worst conditions. Taking off into mountainous terrain with a tailwind(the wrong way), is analogous to driving your car the wrong way on a freeway; over a period of time, fatalities would occur. An airline pilots' first priority is safety.

It is the responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft to use the safest runway for departure or landing. Considering that the prevailing winds are from the west through the south 99% of the time, the safest runways for departure would be runway 25 over Irvine and Newport Beach, or runway 16 over Laguna Hills , Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel. Runway 25 or 16 are the safest runways for takeoff with the wind less than 14 knots from any direction. For arrivals runway 34, over Laguna Niguel,Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Hills, or runway 7, over Newport Beach, and Irvine would be the safest runways 99% of the time. Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and P & D Consultants, the firm who wrote the Community Reuse plan, have agreed with this analysis. In fairness to P & D Consultants, they were asked to determine if it were possible for takeoffs to be made to the east and northwest, not to determine what would be the safest usage of the airport.

After discussions with representatives of a major airline and representatives of all of the airlines unions, I feel confident that they agree with this analysis. I want the local community to be aware that 99% of all takeoffs will be made on runway 25 or 16 over highly populous and noise sensitive areas and that neither the airlines nor air traffic control could or would override the pilot in commands decision to use the safest runways for takeoff( runways 25 or 16). A decision to use runway 7 for takeoff could be a personal injury attorney's dream come true. In summary, even if the local community agreed to allow a marginally safe runway (runway 7 or 34) for takeoff, no competent airline pilot would ever compromise safety for noise, and that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and the traveling public to always use the safest runways for departure and landing. I am on the safety committee of a major airline, and have served as a Navy fighter pilot in the Vietnam era, and have 23 yrs with a major airline and have 30,000 hrs of flight time. I am currently supplying technical information to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Stanley G. Sanders II

Click here for Captain Sanders most recently published statement on El Toro Airport safety.

Return to summary of comments by four commercial pilots.

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