Lengthening JWA's Runway

Nicolas Dzepina, an anti-El Toro activist, has spent considerable time collecting and analyzing information regarding the possibilities for extending John Wayne Airport's main runway.

Dzepina supports better utilization of JWA to serve Orange County's aviation needs. He has determined that the existing 5,700-foot runway can be extended at both the north and south ends, to as much as 7,062-feet without physical expansion and up to 7,532 feet with a bridge to the golf course.

The airport then could more readily handle the Boeing 767 aircraft for which it was designed. Currently, 767's are not used at JWA.

His report is published below, with his comments and conclusions, without verification or endorsement by the website.

John Wayne Airfield Tour

On December 12, 2000, I was invited by Lawrence Serafini, who is a Consultant with the County in the Airport Development Section, on a “tour” of JWA airfield.

My purpose was to find out what kind of runway extension could be done at JWA within its current boundary. Serafini drove me all around the airfield, answering all of my questions plus follow up ones over the phone later on, for more detailed information

Here are step by step detailed explanations of what can be done based upon currently known data. - What could be done is subject to further level of analysis. Any modification must have FAA approval.

Extension to the South.

QUESTION: Why does the runway ends at 5,700 feet when there is an additional 1,512 feet available up to Bristol Street to the South, that could be used to extend the runway?

ANSWER: To quickly summarize, this is the result of the County suing Air Cal some time ago, then Newport Beach suing the County which led to the current legal agreement. With more runway length the airlines could add more “pounds” (i.e. fuel and/or passengers) which might add more noise.

QUESTION: Can the current localizer Antenna position be moved back towards the fence? If so how much?

ANSWER: The localizer antenna has to be 1,000 to 2,000 feet maximum from the end of the runway . At JWA it is at 1,100 feet. Under JWA current layout the localizer can be moved back 125 Feet maximum, because of the vehicle access roadway behind the 250 feet half circle clearance required behind the Antenna.

QUESTION: Does that means the runway can be extended at least 125 feet towards Bristol?

ANSWER: YES. Any runway length extension to the South would necessitate other rearrangements such as extending the parallel taxiways, and maybe removing the Signature Aviation building to the east. Only a study could determine that outcome. A new environmental study would also be required.

QUESTION: Can portion of the perimeter road behind that antenna 250 feet half circle clearance area, be tunneled under that area and not cause interference?

ANSWER: YES it could as long as it does not interfere with the operation and is approved by the FAA. It could also be tunneled under the crash zone in front of the antenna, away from the 250 feet half circle clearance required, or moved elsewhere.

CONCLUSION: This would add another 37 feet, for a total extension of 125+37 = 162 feet towards Bristol. It is possible to add 262 feet, if the distance between the end of the new extended runway and the antenna can be kept at the 1,000 feet minimum requirement, instead of the current 1,100 feet. The final determination as to the location of the antenna critical area, between, 1-2000 feet from the end of the runway, as outlined previously, is determined by actual flight check by the FAA.

COMMENTS: This added 162-262 foot extension might not seem much, but is important because it would give planes currently in use at JWA like the Boeing 757 an added safety cushion on landing.

QUESTION: How many more pounds could a plane add, for example, with a 600-foot extension towards Bristol?

ANSWER: A 600- foot extension towards Bristol would allow a Boeing 767-200 or 767-200 ER to add 15,000 pounds of load. The Boeing 767-200 and/or 200-ER is the designed aircraft used in the County study for the current 5,700-foot runway.


The Boeing 767-200 or 767-200ER can takeoff from the existing 5,700-foot runway and travel 3,000 miles with 302,000 pounds of load. (Fuel + the 216 passengers maximum it can carry with luggage but no cargo), on a standard summer day, at sea level with twin Pratt & Whitney engines.

  • It only needs 4,000 to 4,500 feet of rolling runway out of the existing 5,700 feet, before rotating (lifting off). Planes such as the 757 currently in use at JWA only need around 3,800 feet out of the 5,700 foot, before lifting off.

    The Boeing 767-200/ER with 216 passengers BUT no cargo, under dry weather condition only needs 5,100 feet of runway to land. Under wet condition it needs 5,700 to 5,800 feet, but with 30 degrees more flaps it only needs 5,500 feet.

  • Currently that same Boeing 767 can land on the 5,700-foot runway, under wet condition, with a load limited to 260,000 pounds. Since the fuel load on landing is minimum we are talking about a sizable number of passengers. (180 at 230 pounds per passenger. Empty, that plane weigh 177,000 pounds. The touchdown point or marker zone when landing is 500 feet away from the north end of the 5,700-foot runway.
  • COMMENTS: Although 5,862 to 5,962-foot would be enough to land a Boeing 767 with 216 passengers and no cargo on a dry runway, a 6,200 to 6,300 foot runway would allow that aircraft to land the 216 passengers on a wet runway with 200 or 300 feet of spare room. With a 5,862 to 5,962-foot runway, the 250-foot half circle clearance required behind the antenna would end on the airfield boundary line, and portion of the access roadway currently alongside the fence would have to be tunneled underneath, or the road moved elsewhere. (The cost of tunneling portion of that perimeter road or moving it elsewhere, is one reason why Alternative F does not extend the runway beyond its current south end point, per Doug Sachman P&D Consultant.

    QUESTION: What is needed then to extend that runway to the South to get more than 5,862 to 5,962-foot?

    ANSWER: Depending upon the runway length desired, it would require either:

    A) Bridge over Northbound Bristol Street only. (The least costly alternative)

    B) Bridging Northbound Bristol Street + half of the northbound 73 Freeway up to the median section of it only, 260 Feet away. This would extend the runway 422 feet minimum to 522 feet maximum towards Bristol Street. C) Building a bridge all the way across up to the golf course - The most costly alternative - would extend the runway by 682-782 feet. COMMENTS: In the three above scenarios, all the different runway length would be inside the airfield. The bridges are needed as a buffer to prevent the automobiles below from interfering with the antenna reception.

    QUESTION: How much can the current runway be extended minimum to the South, to safely land a fully loaded Boeing 767 under the worst weather conditions without changing the incoming flight pattern?

    ANSWER: Serafini e-mailed to me: "We have not done any planning for any runway extensions at JWA. Although your proposals are interesting I CANNOT provide the level of analysis you are requesting at this time. It will be available if in the future JWA is tasked to do detailed expansion planning."

    QUESTION: Asked of Doug Sachman (P&D Consultant) over the phone on August 31, 2001. With the future GPS system, would the 1,000-foot minimum antenna clearance currently required have to remain in place?

    ANSWER: NO! The GPS system will render the current requirements obsolete. The runway could be extended depending on how much crash zone would be needed or required. Since it is currently 1,000 feet, the runway could be extended UP TO 7,275 feet with a 1,000 feet crash zone, within its current boundary with the perimeter road staying put.

    Or the runway could be paved evenly up to 8,275 feet. Without changing the current 500 feet touchdown point, the excess unused and/or not needed portion of that extended runway on landing would serve as a crash zone depending on the size of aircraft allowed at JWA. The Boeing 767 only needs at the most 5,800 feet of rolling runway to land 216 passengers with no cargo.

    Extension to the North:

    QUESTION: What about a runway extension to the north as considered by the FAA? There is a 1,353-foot long “grassy area” towards the 405 Freeway. Can the runway be extended towards it and if so how much?

    ANSWER:  YES it can be extended about 1,100 feet, but a wall (the width of the 150 feet runway) would be needed behind it because a plane like the Boeing 757 in use at JWA displaces a 50 MPH wind 1,200 feet away. This extension could only be used for takeoff and would allow the same Boeing 767-200/200ER to carry a maximum of 317,000 pounds or 15,000 pounds more for a 6,800 feet runway in length.

    QUESTION: Would that 1,100-foot extension to the North allow planes to be much higher over Newport Beach?

    ANSWER from Serafini: NO! Because airlines would add more “pounds”! They do not care about noise!

    CONCLUSION: Within JWA current boundary, you could have a 6,962 to7,062 foot long runway, without any outside physical extension, and a 7,482-7,582 foot long runway with a 525 foot bridge over the 73 freeway and Bristol Street both ways.

    COMMENT: Any additional runway length to the North, South or both, would allow larger planes to use the airport or more passengers to be carried on existing planes.  JWA would be able to serve Orange County's modestly increasing population without an airport at El Toro. Most regional demand growth will occur elsewhere. That is why Newport Beach wants the runway to remain at 5,700 feet.
    Nicolas G. Dzepina
    Tel & Fax: 949-855-0165        nicolasdzepina@hotmail.com