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What's in an Airport's Name

February 07, 1988

We suspect that most people headed for Orange County tell their travel agent or airline precisely that: "I want a ticket to Orange County." Relatively few ask to go to John Wayne Airport.

But it was more than eight years ago that the county supervisors dropped the plain but most appropriate name of Orange County Airport to put John Wayne's brand on it. It was a mistake, albeit a sentimental one, and as a new petition seeking to restore the airfield's old name reminds us, it's still a mistake today.

It's not that John Wayne, who was an Orange County resident and an American institution, doesn't deserve recognition in his home county. He does. We would just like it to be something more appropriate to the Duke's hobbies, haunts and background than an airport that he had such little feeling for that he once reportedly put his name on a petition opposing its jet noise.

Wayne, from his screen image and commercials, was beloved as a rough-and-tumble outdoorsman and patriot, more associated with the waterfront, where he lived and moored his beloved Wild Goose, than with any airfield. We thought the Orange County Fairgrounds, with its western flavor, a regional park with great outdoor space and riding trails, a theater or a hospital that would recognize Wayne's long and valiant fight against cancer would have been, and still would be, more appropriate and meaningful sites to bear his name.

Today, for too many people in Orange County, the name John Wayne just conjures up a noisy pain in the eardrum. And out-of-towners, hearing that their destination is John Wayne Airport, might well worry that they're headed for Hollywood or Texas.

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