The following internal Federal Aviation Administration memorandum makes strong arguements against any attempt to operate both John Wayne and El Toro as commercial airports, competing for the same airspace. Therefore, the author states, "We do not see civilian reuse of MCAS El Toro as a capacity enhancing project." The memo writer was apparently over-ridden by higher authority and the views expressed did not receive adequate attention in the public debate over the El Toro Reuse Plan.
The Board of Supervisors has requested that the County CEO "study" a "two airport" system. If El Toro Airport becomes a reality, it will not be surprising to find this memo, or its contents, re-surfacing in a future study, as part of a justification for closing John Wayne to commercial traffic.
Subject: INFORMATION: Civilian Reuse of MCAS El Toro Date Sep. 18, 1996
From: Manager, Air Traffic Division, AWP-500
To: Manager, Airports Division,
ATTN.: Supervisor, Capacity Section, AWP-613
The Operations Branch, AWP-530, has carefully reviewed the proposed reuse of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro as a civilian airport. While Air Traffic is generally in favor of more concrete to handle increasing demands, such concrete, or airport development must be in suitable locations to handle ever increasing demand. Such is not the case with MCAS El Toro if John Wayne is to remain a viable airport.
The proposal as submitted by the consultant for Orange County proposes that both MCAS El Toro and John Wayne Airports would continue to operate. It also pre-supposes John Wayne will remain constrained, as will MCAS El Toro. The current constraints on John Wayne Airport expires in 2005, and if MCAS El Toro is converted, it would have the potential to grow well beyond the forecast used by the consultant.
Two airports within seven nautical miles poses significant problems for air traffic. Overlapping airspace boundaries, crossing instrument approach and departure procedures and insufficient airspace capacity to manage a large volume or mix of heavy turbo-jet operations and general aviation demand would surely result in gross inefficiencies at both airports and would serve no useful purpose to the National Airspace System. The only viable solution to the problems would be the application of a "turn-key" type operation, wherein the existing John Wayne Airport would close when the MCAS El Toro Airport opens. Without this commitment from Orange County, we would surely be looking at major traffic conflictions, delays and inefficient use of airspace and other resources for many years to come.
If Orange County were to subscribe to the turn-key approach, the current runway configuration at MCAS El Toro would still be a capacity limiting circumstance. Significant efforts would have to be made to establish independent parallel runways to maximize the efficiency and capacity of the airport surface and the surrounding airspace. The topography of the site may very well make this impractical. At the very least, it will add substantial cost to the project.
From an airspace efficiency perspective, we do not see civilian reuse of MCAS El Toro as a capacity enhancing project. The extent of such impacts, whether both airports remain in operation or a single airport with the existing or amended runway configurations, are not quantifiable without significant simulation. We would look forward to participating in the development and analysis of such simulation when conducted. Questions may be addressed to Bud Riebel, Manager, Operations Branch, AWP-530, at (310) 725-6530.
George D. Williams
See also the Air Transport Association letter on this subject. The airlines have a major say in whether they are willing to build and operate dual ticket counters, baggage handling, catering, maintenance facilities and security at two airports serving the same county.