Rep. Robert E. Badham on Monday asked the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt a special flight plan for John Wayne Airport that would separate commercial airline traffic from small private planes and prohibit airliners from making visual landings.
"I believe we have a balanced approach to the air traffic problems over Orange County," Badham, a Newport Beach Republican who is also a pilot, said of the proposal, a modified version of a plan proposed last month by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn.
The compromise would end the practice of airline pilots approaching the airport by visual flight rules instead of using instruments to navigate. On visual approach, airliners fly at lower altitudes farther from the airport so they can use landmarks as guides.
General-aviation pilots contend that flying at lower altitudes at greater distances from the airport increases the risk that commercial airliners may collide with smaller aircraft, which generally fly at lower altitudes.
Badham said he believes that there is an increased risk for midair collision between airliners and private planes over such landmarks as Disneyland, which he said many commercial pilots use as a visual reference point.
The proposal, developed by Badham and a seven-member air safety advisory panel, would require commercial pilots to fly at higher altitudes closer to the airport and to rely more on instructions from air traffic controllers and their own instruments.
"We're trying to keep two different types of aircraft out of each others' way until the last possible moment until they have to land," said Scott Raphael, a legal representative for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., which represents 265,000 aircraft pilots and owners worldwide.
FAA officials declined comment Monday, saying they had not yet seen a copy of Badham's proposal.
Raphael said the FAA may reject the plan because it will probably cause more delays for airline pilots who will not be able to make visual approaches.
He added that airlines might also not approve of the plan for that reason and because visual approaches save time and fuel by allowing the pilot to descend sooner and glide farther.
The FAA has proposed a tentative plan that all aircraft--commercial and private alike--be tracked by radar before landing at the airport, a proposal private pilots dislike.
Under the association's plan proposed in July, airlines approaching from the coast would have to fly as far north as Anaheim Hills or Yorba Linda at 2,500 feet to 44,000 feet before turning right and descending on final airport approach.
Under Badham's modification, about 10% of that proposed flight control area would be eliminated on the west side of the airport. That means airliners on coastal approach could turn toward the airport over a triangular area above Huntington Beach. That smaller area is also expected to help ease the burden on air traffic controllers.
Badham and Raphael said the proposal could go into effect next year if all goes smoothly.