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News Release

Release #01.13
March 1, 2001

Media Advisory: ALPA Position on El Toro Airport

WASHINGTON, D.C.---Because of ongoing local interest in this issue, the Air Line Pilots Association, representing the professional interests of more than 59,000 pilots flying for 49 different airlines of the United States and Canada, offers the following information concerning the conversion of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to a commercial international airport.

The ALPA designated regional safety representative, Captain Jon Russell, has stated the ALPA position on the safety and operational aspects of airline operations at El Toro. ALPA favors an airline airport at El Toro provided it is operated safely and efficiently so that it represents a positive addition to our nation’s airspace system.

In that context, ALPA recommended several years ago that the El Toro runways be realigned to parallel the high terrain to the north and northeast of the airport, similar to the Ontario, California International Airport. However, if Orange County insists on operating an El Toro airline airport with its existing runway layout, ALPA still supports airline operations at some reasonable level of annual operations, subject to certain reasonable conditions.

Those conditions include re-grading the east-west runway to minimize the upward slope of the runway. A precision instrument landing system (ILS) approach must be made operational to the east runway, in addition to the ILS for the north runway. Takeoffs on the north runway must not be required to fly over the terrain to the north. Rather, they must be permitted to turn to the west to avoid the hazardous terrain, just as the Marine aircraft did when they were operated at El Toro.

Finally, ALPA does not agree with a prohibition on takeoffs to the west. At times, wind, weather, or temperature conditions will dictate that west runway takeoffs must be utilized for purposes of both safety and efficiency. This is standard practice throughout the United States.

Preferential runway use (as opposed to a complete ban on using a particular runway) also is a noise abatement tool that minimizes impact on sensitive areas while maintaining use of a runway as an option when conditions indicate its use. Most importantly, in ALPA’s view, an absolute prohibition (absent obstacles) on an available runway has unacceptable negative safety implications.

Because it does not include an ILS for landings from the west, Orange County’s present proposal would have the effect of closing the airport to arrivals any time the weather conditions fall below basic visual flight rules minimums of a 1,000-foot ceiling or 3 miles visibility, and winds are out of the south at more than 11 miles per hour (10 knots). Such a restriction would negate the commercial utility of the project, since these conditions occur with some frequency.

Adequate airline capacity is impossible without adequate infrastructure. All parties must commit to bringing a realistic, commercially viable airport on line.

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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor (703) 481-4440