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By Supervisor Lisa Bartlett

If you have noticed more planes flying directly over your home, you are not imagining things, and you are not alone. There have been recent changes made to flight paths over South Orange County by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—the entity with exclusive authority over the nation’s navigable airspace—implemented changes to the flight paths for planes flying to and from John Wayne Airport. The changes altered historical flight paths directly through South Orange County. And as a result, many residents have started to complain about increased airplane noise.

Because of the increasing number of complaints, I recently hosted a public forum to provide the community with background information about the process that led the FAA to change the flight paths, and provide an avenue for our community to voice our concerns.

For background, in 2003 Congress called for the development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen to improve aviation safety and efficiency. The cornerstone of NextGen is the transition from a ground-based air traffic control system to one that is satellite-based. This transition causes many flight paths, particularly those involving take-offs, to be more concentrated.

These changes were sought to improve the efficiency and safety of air traffic in the region, certainly an objective with good merit. However, in doing so the FAA has completely ignored the impact to the quality of life for those in the altered flight paths in South Orange County.

In an effort to find some measure of relief from the noise caused by the FAA changes, my colleagues and I on the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to challenge the FAA’s ‘Finding of No Significant Impact’ and their ‘Record of Decision.’ Additionally, I went to Washington D.C. to personally meet with Orange County’s congressional delegation and officials from the FAA to voice the concerns from constituents regarding the negative impact of the NextGen flight path changes.

The cities of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach filed lawsuits against the FAA on similar grounds. The court has granted the County’s petition to intervene in the City of Newport Beach’s lawsuit, and the County will be working with these cities as litigation moves forward.

Because only the Federal government has jurisdiction over flights, I encourage residents to share your concern by directly contacting your congressional representative and the FAA. The FAA’s Aviation Noise Ombudsman can be reached at 202.267.3521 or via email at

It can be difficult to get the federal government to change their policy once implemented. However together, with as many South Orange County voices as possible, our concerns will be heard, and we will be successful to affect change.

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