County officials confirmed on Monday that John Wayne Airport's new, $50-million passenger terminal will not be completed until Sept. 15, five months behind schedule.
But the airport's top administrator defended the delay, saying that little could have been done to avoid it.
During a half-hour news conference at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana, Airport Manager George Rebella said he probably wouldn't do anything differently if he were given a second chance to shepherd the project forward.
"While this is disappointing, it's not a disaster," Rebella said, suggesting that the construction problems with the terminal were akin to those any homeowner encounters with contractors during a home-remodeling project.
Work at the airport has been delayed for a variety of reasons, among them incomplete architectural drawings, late orders for steel delivery and subcontractor payment disputes.
When word of the delay was reported by local newspapers last week, aides for some county supervisors suggested that Rebella's job could be in jeopardy. Asked during Monday's news conference if he had interviewed for a post at the San Jose International Airport, Rebella declined comment.
Rebella said estimates that the postponement would cost the county $5.6 million in lost airline revenue were "highly speculative." Even if the predictions prove true, he said, the airport still would have more than $7.5 million in reserves.
He said any change in the fees to be paid contractors will be up for discussion in coming weeks, then will go before the Board of Supervisors for review.