John Wayne Airport – Flight and Noise Restrictions

Keeping the peace

May 27, 2010

John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County, California, is not your typical airport. At least it’s not the typical airport I come in contact with. Bracketed on both ends of two parallel runway by highways, and surrounded by densely packed commercial and residential neighbors, noise is the enemy of airport operations. As it must be. Because to lose control of the noise situation would unleash the power of the public who have every reason to expect a peaceful night’s sleep – even if they did move into a home that is within sight of a ramp area frequented by executive jets and a wide assortment of GA machinery.

So serious is John Wayne Airport’s battle against jangled nerves brought on by noisy aircraft, SNA has instituted and maintains some of the strictest noise rules in the United States. But don’t take my word for it — the airport management proudly proclaims their anti-noise position on their website.

Take a peek at the General Aviation Noise Ordinance being implemented at John Wayne Airport, here.

So serious is their stance on this issue, John Wayne Airport maintains 10 permanent noise monitoring stations on the field. You only need to exceed the noise levels at one of those 10 reporting stations to run afoul of the decibel detail. And this is no toothless, feel-good policy, my friends. Violate the noise restrictions at SNA three times within three years and you will be denied use of the airport for the next three years!

Could this level of noise restrictions be coming to your airport? Who knows? In the end it’s really up to you, your neighbors, the municipality’s building code, and your political involvement. There’s one thing you know for sure – if homes are built next to the airport, people will move into those homes. And not all those people (or even a majority of them) are likely to be fans of the noise that airplanes make when they leave the ground.

Take a peek at the noise restrictions incorporated at John Wayne Airport, and then ask yourself how important your active political participation is regarding your municipally owned airport. Not that this level of restriction would be in place at your field anytime soon – but it could be someday. It all depends on how well the airport folks interact with the government folks, and how much buffer space is kept around the airport perimeter.

Good luck to you. And my condolences to the folks in Orange County, California. Airplane noise at the airport – who ever would have guessed that could happen?

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. You can reach him at