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Mixed Use of Air Base

July 24, 1988

I was quoted in The Times ("County's Deal for Airport Neighbors" on Saturday, July 16) as saying, "Anybody's got to be skeptical about politicians." This is hardly an earth-shattering observation and is one that could probably be elicited from 99% of the electorate at any point in time. More to the point is the question of just what the politicians are up to with the present solution to the Orange County airport problem. This involves throwing $350 million into new terminal facilities (same old overcrowded runways) and an end to residents' complaints about noise by buying them out or cocooning them in their homes.

At best this is a Band-Aid approach that postpones facing the real issues, how to accommodate the real air transportation needs of the county into the next century. The solution is one that the politicians have shunned as if it were a week-old dead mackerel: El Toro Marine Corps Air Base.

The Marine Corps is moving toward a VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) capability in its air arm. Eventually, the corps could conceivably phase out its conventional aircraft, and the need for El Toro's long runways would then become moot. Visible foam is probably flecking the mouths of residents of Irvine who have read this far. I would like to suggest that a net reduction in noise would result from a swap of civilian for military jets. The politicians have told us for years that the noise problem will go away because the new generation of civilian aircraft will be quieter. To a considerable extent this has been borne out, and the trend will continue into the future.

The FAA says civilian and military traffic can be mixed at El Toro. Leaders with vision need to start planning for this change now. This is not strictly a local problem. It will take the support of the California congressional delegation and other movers and shakers here and in Washington. Since the developers in Orange County are part of the problem I would suggest they get strongly behind this proposal. If it would hasten the process, I would even be in favor of erecting a statue of Tom Riley at the entrance to the new Orange County International Airport as a counterpart to John Wayne's statue at the old one.

ROY G. KNUTSON

Newport Beach

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