Guy Norris/EL TORO


Eight leased jet airliners performed 50 flights into and out of the El Toro US Marine Corps base in Orange County, California, this month to simulate airline operations. The base formally closes as a military site this year. The demonstration is believed to be the first of its kind.

The $1 million exercise was organised by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the body responsible for planning the base's re-use, in an effort to appease local opposition to the site being developed as an international airport.

The base is located in one of the fastest-growing urban areas of North America and is being studied as a potential successor to the nearby Orange County Airport, as well as a supplemental Southern California gateway to Los Angeles International Airport.

"The demonstration was a fabulous success," says Courtney Wiercioch, manager of the El Toro master development programme. Although noise monitors were placed at several points around the airport, the data will not directly contribute to the environmental impact statement, which is due to be submitted in December.

"This was purely an information exercise," says Wiercioch. "Its purpose was to give folks a first-hand, real-time experience of the aircraft and what it would be like."

The outline schedule calls for the first passenger flights to begin in 2005. However, freight and possibly charter operations are expected to begin before then, says Wiercioch. "UPS, Fedex, DHL and Airborne Express have all indicated to us an interest in operating from here."

Aircraft taking part in the demonstration included an Airbus A300 and A320 and a Boeing 737-300 and -400, 757-200, 767-300ER, MD-90 and 747-400. The aircraft were leased from operators including Atlas Air Cargo, America West, Delta Air Lines, Federal Express and Southwest Airlines.

Source: Flight International