Once again the federal government is studying the possibility of opening the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station to joint military and commercial airline use. Local officials and residents should not get their hopes up, however. There is nothing to indicate that joint use is more feasible or acceptable now than it was several years ago when the federal government studied and emphatically rejected the idea.
For years, local officials have searched for a site for a major commercial airport to supplement operations at John Wayne Airport. John Wayne, located in unincorporated territory, is the only airfield in Orange County that provides passenger jet service. El Toro is always on the search list, even though some prior studies have rejected it. For a variety of factors, the pressure on the air station has built in recent years.
For one thing, the inability to find a suitable site for another airport anywhere else in the county keeps frustrated residents and local elected officials, especially those in Newport Beach, circling back to El Toro. Also adding to the pressure against the base is a clause in a legal compromise reached in 1985 between the county and Newport Beach in which the county board backed off its position that there is no suitable site for a new airport in the county. That action, as the Irvine City Council feared, renewed interest in joint military-civilian use of the El Toro air station.