JWA General Aviation Improvement Program

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October 26, 2020

The lease for the selected limited-service fixed base operator, Jay's Aircraft, will be on the Board of Supervisors'  November 3 meeting agenda.  John Wayne Airport staff has added information to the airport's website that explains the phasing and provides a timeline for the construction of the General Aviation Improvement Program. You can find that information here.

September 16, 2020

At its Tuesday, September 15 meeting, the Orange County Board of Supervisors further advanced the John Wayne Airport General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) with its approval of 35-year leases with two of the private companies that will build out and operate the airport’s new general aviation facilities. Please read our September 16, 2020 Aviation Activities Update for details on the outcome of the Board meeting and Newport Beach's multi-year effort to prevent the County's General Aviation Improvement Program from resulting in an increase in general aviation jet traffic to and from John Wayne Airport.

September 8, 2020

The Orange County Board of Supervisors will consider the negotiated leases with the selected fixed base operators at its September 15 meeting. County staff has posted the staff report and the negotiated leases online. The City of Newport Beach is very concerned that the leases do not include several of the provisions that we have repeatedly asked County officials to include. 

Lease terms the City requested that are NOT in the published leases include:

  • Language that eliminates the ability of any lessee to construct and operate a General Aviation Facility (GAF)
  • A term that restricts the operational hours of the FBOs to match the hours of the commercial curfew at John Wayne Airport (JWA).
  • The requirement any future modifications to the terms pertaining to commercial use of an FBO, prohibiting a GAF, preserving the majority of the space for small general aviation, and restricting the FBOs’ operating hours to go before the Board of Supervisors for review and approval, after reasonable public notice.

However, the leases DO include two items that the City requested:

  • Language that designates and preserves space for small general aviation and for mixed use (as has been depicted on the green and yellow map)
  • Language that prohibits the operation of regularly scheduled commercial users (commercial carriers such as JetSuiteX) from a fixed base operator.

The City submitted a commentary to StuNews Newport for its September 8 edition and prepared a September 8, 2020 Aviation Activities Update that summarizes the issues.  We strongly recommend that residents call or email (714-834-3100 or response@ocgov.com) the Board to urge the Supervisors to include the terms that will provide protections for our community and others.

September 4, 2020

The County of Orange has completed its negotiations with the selected fixed base operators and the leases are currently scheduled to be on the Board of Supervisors' September 15 agenda. The City's September 4, 2020 Aviation Activities Update explains the lease provisions and other items (related to community protections from additional noise and air quality impacts) that the City has asked the County to include in the leases or implement.

August 18, 2020

On August 11, the Orange County Board of Supervisors (Board) selected the private companies, known as Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), that will build out and operate the airport’s new general aviation (GA) facilities. On a 3-2 vote, the Board selected Clay Lacy Aviation for the northwest FBO leasehold and ACI Jet for the northeast FBO. Jay’s Aircraft was unanimously selected for the limited service FBO.

The language to preserve 34+ acres for small general aviation and set aside the remaining 25+ acres for mixed use will be included in the leases, as it was in the model lease contained in the RFP.  We appreciate the Board’s commitment to this important provision. However, none of the additional, proposed lease provisions, including those proposed by the City, were included in the motion. After the Board’s votes on the FBO selections, Supervisor Steel began to discuss Newport Beach’s requested lease terms, but other Supervisors felt it was not appropriate to do so at this time, citing legal parameters and County counsel’s role in lease negotiations.

The Board’s Airport Ad Hoc Committee, which is comprised of Supervisors Steel and Bartlett, will discuss and finalize the lease terms and then provide direction to the Airport Director. The City continues to communicate and advocate the inclusion of lease terms that will:

  • Prohibit the operation of a General Aviation Facility (the space used for processing international passengers).
  • Prohibit commercial airlines, such as JetSuiteX, from operating out of an FBO.
  • Restrict the operational hours of the FBOs to match the hours of the commercial curfew.

Further, the City is asking for a requirement that any future lease amendments pertaining to these provisions, or the acreage the Board earmarked for small general aviation and mixed use, be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Mayor O'Neill sent a letter dated August 14, 2020 to the Board that reiterates the City's recommended lease terms.

The FBOs will enter into 35-year leases with the County. As Newport Beach's long-term neighbors, we strongly believe the leases must contain these provisions to help balance FBO operations with protections for the surrounding communities.

The full Board is expected to approve the final, negotiated leases later this year.

August 10, 2020

On Tuesday, August 11, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to make its next important decision concerning the John Wayne Airport General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP). The Board is expected to choose the private companies that will build out and operate the airport’s new general aviation facilities. Known as Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), these companies will enter long-term leases with the County and will be Newport Beach's neighbors for more than three decades.

The City of Newport Beach (City) desires two over-arching outcomes from the Board's FBO selection process: 

  1. The long-term preservation of small general aviation at John Wayne Airport; and 
  2. FBOs that will respect and protect the communities surrounding the airport for the entirety of their leases with the County.

We believe these outcomes are achieveable and the City is asking the Board to include the following in the County's leases with the FBOs:

  • Incorporate the Board’s direction re: land use restrictions that preserve 34.6 acres for use by small general aviation and the remaining 25.6 acres for mixed use.
  • Prohibit the operation of a GAF.
  • Prohibit commercial operations out of an FBO.
  • Restrict the operational hours of the FBOs to match the hours of the commercial curfew.

Further, the City is asking for a requirement that any future, proposed lease amendments pertaining to these provisions be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

In addition to the lease provisions, the City will be asking the Board on August 11 to take the following actions as we believe they promote transparency and support community noise and air quality protections:

  • Expand the Access & Noise Office quarterly analysis to include a list of GA jets departing before 7 a.m. and after 10 p.m.  
  • Implement a GA program with voluntary restraints on operations during the “curfew hours”.
  • Request a report back to the Board re: the FAA’s work with the general aviation industry on the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI) to evaluate and identify an acceptable unleaded replacement for the existing aviation gasoline for small aircraft. 

July 31, 2020

The GAIP Ad Hoc subcommittee of the City's Aviation Committee reviewed the materials made available by the County from each of the responses received to its Request for Proposals for Fixed Base Operators. The Ad Hoc also conducted brief interviews with each of the seven respondents and evaluated the respondents' proposed plans according to how well the plans align with the City of Newport Beach's goals for the GAIP. The Ad Hoc's findings were reviewed by the Aviation Committee on July 27 (staff report). On July 28, the City Council (meeting agenda - see Item 17) reviewed the findings and recommendations made by the Aviation Committee. The Council approved communicating the findings to the Board of Supervisors and relaying the City's strong recommendation that the County include language in the FBOs' lease terms and conditions that accomplishes the following:

  1. Implements Supervisor Steel's direction to restrict certain airport parcels for use only by medium and large general aviation (GA) jet aircraft and other parcels for use only by small GA aircraft, and that the area for small GA aircraft is built out in a manner that preserves the current ratio of 40, 50, and 60 foot hangers.
  2. Eliminates the ability of any lessee to construct and operate a General Aviation Facility (a space used for processing international general aviation passengers) or, at a minimum, restricts the hours of the GAF to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more details, please see the July 31, 2020 letter,  from Newport Beach Mayor Will O'Neill to Chairwoman Michelle Steel and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.


July 9, 2020 

John Wayne Airport Director Barry Rondinella notified City Manager Grace Leung that the Orange County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to the review the proposals for Fixed Based Operators (FBOs) at JWA on Tuesday, August 11.  At the meeting, JWA staff will ask the Board to select a respondent for each available FBO site. Airport staff will return to the Board at a later date for approval of the final leases with the selected FBOs. The Orange County Airport Commission will consider the item at its August 5 meeting.

The following documents related to the Fixed Base Operators’ proposals - the evaluation panel scores, proposers' conceptual renderings/layouts, and the proposers' responses to the questionnaire - have been posted to the JWA website. You can find the documents at https://www.ocair.com/generalaviation/gaimprovement (scroll down and you will see July 9, 2020 Update). You can also go directly to the Dropbox folder here.

The City of Newport Beach Aviation Committee has a General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) Ad Hoc committee that is meeting to discuss and evaluate each proposer’s responses to the questionnaire and renderings/layouts. The GAIP Ad Hoc will report on its findings at the July 27 Aviation Committee meeting.  

March 13, 2020

John Wayne Airport staff notified the City late yesterday that the Orange County Board of Supervisors will not consider the proposals for the General Aviation Improvement Program on April 14.  Therefore, the related documents will not be released on March 13 for public review. Airport staff did not provide information as to when the Board may consider the matter, but staff did indicate that the related documents would be available for public review 30 days in advance of the new date.

March 2020

John Wayne Airport has clarified the timeline for when it will release documents from and related to the responses received for the County’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for Fixed Base Operators (FBOs).

  1. No later than Friday, March 13, JWA will release each respondents’ evaluation panel scores, proposed conceptual renderings/layouts, and questionnaires for public review. Several organizations, including the City of Newport Beach, will be provided digital copies of the documents. Community members may call (949) 252-5155 or email JWAConcessions@ocair.com to receive a copy.
  2. At its Wednesday, April 1 meeting, the Orange County Airport Commission is scheduled to receive and file this information.
  3. On Tuesday, April 14, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to review the proposals received. The agenda item submitted for the Board’s April 14 meeting will ask the Board to select a respondent for each available site. 
  4. FBO leases will be considered by the Board in July, following negotiations with selected respondents. 

Late Fall 2019

On September 10, the Orange County Board of Supervisors (Board) advanced the John Wayne Airport General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) a step further by approving the Request for Proposals (RFP) for Full and Limited Service Fixed Base Operators. The RFP includes the land use restrictions the Board adopted on June 25 to ensure a significant portion of the airport remains for use by light general aviation.

A key part of the Board’s decision involved whether to include additional specificity in the RFP regarding what structures will ultimately be built at the airport. The City of Newport Beach (City), the City of Costa Mesa, aviation-focused community groups and the So Cal Pilots asked for the inclusion of more details into the RFP to provide clear direction to potential proposers. The City also examined the legal issues and we believe our request for more detail in the RFP was well within the law. The County, however, holds a different legal opinion, and the Board felt constrained by the law from including the precise facilities and mix of structures that will be built under the GAIP.

We were disappointed that our requested details didn’t get included in the RFP, but based upon the Board’s discussion, we believe the Supervisors understand the needs and desires of the communities surrounding the airport and the So Cal Pilots. Many of their comments and questions centered on issues Newport Beach raised and also involved maintaining the current mix of general aviation at the airport. 

Since the RFP has been finalized, the City has been meeting with the potential bidders on the fixed base operations as they develop their proposals. The City of Newport Beach will oppose any proposal that does not support our community’s best interests.

September 2019 Update

The Request for Proposals for the Fixed Base Operators was reviewed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, September 10. Please read our Aviation Activities Update for information about what the City intends to request of the Board, links to the Board agenda and more.

June 25, 2019 Update

On Tuesday, June 25, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a plan for its General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) that includes many of the elements of the project alternative supported by Newport Beach and other cities impacted by John Wayne Airport’s operations.

The now-approved plan, proposed by Supervisor Michelle Steel, was a late addition to the Board of Supervisor’s agenda packet. The City of Newport Beach was made aware of it Monday morning.

The plan calls for:

  • Limiting the full-service, Fixed Base Operators to two;
  • Limiting the limited-service Fixed Base Operators to one new and one existing; and
  • Preserving space at John Wayne Airport for small general aviation planes by imposing land use and lease restrictions on certain airport parcels so that more than 50 percent of the airport area available for general aviation will be dedicated to light general aviation aircraft. In doing so, the plan will help to preserve the presence of small general aviation (twin- and single-engine) aircraft, and thereby limit the amount of space for general aviation jets, at the airport.

The plan also includes a General Aviation Facility for processing international passengers, but its hours of operations will be limited to 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. While the City wanted the facility excluded from the project, it believes the limited hours of operation is a reasonable compromise.

The plan approved today is significantly better for Newport Beach than Alternative 1, the project alternative recommended by County staff and the alternative the City believes would have the most impact on the community.

The City and some of its community groups desire to see additional constraints placed on the project, such as:

  • Limiting the size of the hangars to ensure they are available to smaller aircraft;
  • Limiting the hours of operation of the full-service Fixed Base Operators; and
  • Moving commercial operations, such as JetSuiteX, to the main terminal.

The County supervisors heard those ideas and noted that they could be considered for inclusion during the Request for Proposal stage of the project.

For more detailed information, please see our June 25 Project Update or our updated Q&A that includes a list of rumors vs.facts.

June 20, 2019 Update

The GAIP item is on the Board of Supervisor's June 25 Agenda. County staff submitted the same staff report, that recommends project Alternative 1, as it did for the Board's May 7 meeting.

The City of Newport Beach opposes Alternative 1 in its original form, but remains willing to consider the “modified Alternative 1” as proposed by Supervisor Do, or another plan that will not subject the communities under the airport’s arrival and departure corridors to additional noise and pollution impacts.

Specifically, the City is looking for the Board to adopt a plan based on the principles of Alternative 3 (the City’s preferred alternative):

  • No more than two (2) full-service Fixed Based Operators
  • One (1) new and one (1) existing limited-service Fixed Base Operators
  • No General Aviation Facility (for processing international general aviation passengers)
  • Increased hangar space for small general aviation planes
  • Maintain the current “GA mix”, meaning, keep the current ratio of light general aviation aircraft (single and twin engine) and general aviation jets.

The City has received a number of questions about or related to the GAIP. You can find our latest Q & A here.

May 16, 2019 Update



See our documents and materials page for op-eds, letters, presentations, newsletters and more.

The General Aviation Improvement Program item will now return to the Board of Supervisors for further consideration on Tuesday, June 25. It will not go before the Board on May 21, as was originally announced.

May 8, 2019 Update

On May 7, after taking public comments and deliberating, the Board of Supervisors decided to continue the General Aviation Improvement Program item to a future meeting.

The cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach had City Council representatives present who spoke in favor of Alternative 3. The City of Newport Beach also had its outside counsel speak about some of the issues raised in the letter the City sent to the Board on May 3. (Laguna Beach and Tustin sent letters in support of Alt. 3 and the Huntington Beach City Council voted to support Alt. 3  on May 6.) There was a strong showing of community members, but there wasn’t a clear consensus behind one alternative or concept. Some supported the So Cal Pilot’s proposal (calls for 3 FBOs and more space for light GA), others sought to delay the Board's vote, and some supported Alternative 3. No one spoke in favor of Alternative 1.

Supervisor Andrew Do then proposed a compromise - a modified Alternative 1 -  in an effort to address some of the concerns raised. After further discussion, the Board decided to continue the item to give airport staff time to analyze the proposal and determine if it is in alignment with the environmental document. City of Newport Beach attorneys are also reviewing and analyzing what was proposed. The City will continue to work with the County and advocate the elements we believe will best protect our community.

The table below (using the EIR’s 2026 forecasts for the alternatives) compares Alternative 1, Alternative 3 and the Proposal presented at the May 7 Board meeting.

 Proposed GAIP Alternative



John Wayne Airport is considering modernizing its general aviation facilities.

The proposed improvements include:

  • Modifications to buildings and an airfield roadway to comply with current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for airport design
  • Provisions for a General Aviation facility which is a screening facility for Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, for international travel, in addition to provisions for a general aviation terminal
  • Provisions for up to three full-service, Fixed Base Operators
  • Provisions for a flight school with tie-down areas
  • Provisions for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department air support facility
  • Provisions for a self-service fuel facility for general aviation aircraft
  • Retention of the existing general aviation fuel farm, which is located on the southeast side of the airport.

All improvements are proposed to be confined to the existing airport footprint. You can learn more about the program at ocair.com/generalaviation/gaimprovement.

The City has been aware of and began tracking this proposal as early as March 2017. City representatives attended the initial project scoping meeting on April 12, 2017 and also provided a detailed comment letter in response to the Notice of Preparation for the environmental impact report. The topic was covered in the City’s April 2017 Aviation Update and was a subject of discussion before the City’s Aviation Committee and two community groups. The issues of noise and air quality were key items for discussion and comment.

Draft Environmental Impact Report

The County of Orange prepared a Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) in the fall of 2018. The draft EIR public review and comment period began on September 20, 2018 and closed on November 21, 2018. City staff and consultants reviewed the Draft EIR for potential impacts to Newport Beach.

The City submitted a comment letter on the Draft EIR to JWA on November 16, 2018. Four Newport Beach community organizations also submitted comment letters on the Draft EIR and those can be found on the Documents and Resources page (see Community Organizations' Letters). The Draft EIR is available for public review at ocair.com/deir627.

The County issued its responses to comments on April 9, 2019. You can access the information at ocair.com/generalaviation/gaimprovement.

City Review and City Council Action

After reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the GAIP, City of Newport Beach staff and consultants believe the GAIP will expand and intensify operations in areas of JWA that now support light general aviation. The Project will also increase the number of corporate and private jets that depart JWA, resulting in potentially negative impacts on communities surrounding the airport. Pending possible further environmental review, project Alternative 3, as presented in the DEIR, would be the least impactful on Newport Beach neighborhoods.

At its March 12, 2019 meeting, the Newport Beach City Council discussed the GAIP and authorized Mayor Diane Dixon to send a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors requesting the Supervisors, after conducting the project specific environmental review referenced above, adopt project Alternative 3 as presented in the DEIR for the JWA GAIP. (Mayor Dixon's March 25, 2019 letter.

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