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News Release

Release #01.112
October 23, 2001

Pilots Say El Toro Airport Plan Is Not Viable As Proposed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The world’s oldest and largest pilots union, representing more than 66,000 pilots who fly for 47 different airlines in the U.S. and Canada, warns that the present plans for the proposed El Toro International Airport are still flawed. While pilots support the notion of a commercial airport at the former Marine Corps air station, the way in which Orange County has written its plan dooms the airport to almost certain failure.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International, (ALPA) has participated in the El Toro Airport planning process from the beginning, submitting comments and suggestions to Orange County, CA Board of Supervisors’ airport plans whenever the process allowed. In its recently published report on the county’s proposed airport plan, the FAA found that while the airport operations could be conducted in a safe manner, it was not the most efficient use of navigable airspace.

ALPA also strongly believes that the proposed plan will not allow for efficient or viable airport operations. In fact, if this plan is implemented without appropriate modification, air operations in the L.A. basin, and quite possibly elsewhere in the national air space system, will be negatively affected. ALPA urges Orange County supervisors to heed the following cautions, which were also outlined in the FAA report:

Any northbound departures from El Toro will interfere with John Wayne and Long Beach arrival traffic, causing long departure delays from El Toro.

The County insists that instrument approaches to Runway 35 or 17 with a "circle to land" on Runway 8, which lacks an ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach, is satisfactory. Because of high terrain, periods of low ceilings and southerly winds, the majority of air carrier operators will not accept circle to land approaches, forcing pilots to land elsewhere.

The proposed El Toro plan depends on 62% of all departures being to the east on Runway 8, which will not be economically viable because of payload limits. For example, traditional B737 and A320 medium-range flights to Chicago, leaving with an air temperature of 83 degrees and a 5 knot tailwind, will be payload limited and unprofitable because of the inability to carry a full load of passengers, let alone any cargo.

Under certain circumstances, Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) on northbound departures from El Toro will be activated, and pilots will be forced to respond to such warnings and deviate from the flight path

"There are alternatives that the County must consider to make El Toro a safe and viable commercial airport," said Capt. Jon Russell, regional safety chairman for ALPA. "For instance, land extends southwest from El Toro to the ocean. If the New Millennium Group’s V Plan were accepted, Runway 19 would allow southwest departures that would reduce noise, and traffic would flow with instead of against the ATC system in Southern California. Furthermore, if Runway 17 were extended south of the railroad tracks, it would give adequate landing distance, allow a 3-degree glide slope for landings, and the airport would be fully operational in all weather conditions."

"Airline pilots are very much interested in having a viable airport at El Toro. The key word here is viable. Unless ALPA’s recommendations are incorporated into the plan, El Toro will at best be a crippled facility, unable to contribute fully to the commercial aviation grid," he said.

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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor (703) 481-4440