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Photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The New York Times, Sunday, February 25, 2001, The Metro Section

Business Jets Light in the Air,
but Too Heavy for Teterboro

By Steve Strunsky

Teterboro, NJ, Feb. 23 – The Boeing Corporation and the Port Authority are locked in a fight over the authority’s refusal to allow Boeing’s line of big, expensive business jets to land at Teterboro Airport.

With Manhattan just seven miles away, Teterboro is among the preferred general aviation airports for business jets in the New York metropolitan region, as its 185,375 takeoffs and landings in 1999 attest. But because of a 100,000-pound weight limit imposed by Teterboro’s owners, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Boeing Business Jet, one of the heaviest and most elaborate corporate aircraft in the skies today, cannot land there. Instead, those who use the Business Jets, which can weigh up to 171,500 pounds when fully fueled for takeoff, must contend with longer trips into Manhattan from places like Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., or La Guardia, Newark International and Kennedy International Airports.

Boeing has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration against the Port Authority, asking the F.A.A. to intervene and allow the Business Jets to land at Teterboro. The Port Authority, which also operates Newark, La Guardia and Kennedy Airports, has produced engineering studies of Teterboro’s runways and taxiways to justify the weight limit.

The dispute between Boeing and the authority is framed against a larger struggle between the demands of a growing business aviation industry and public officials under pressure from residents to contain air traffic for noise and safety reasons.

Starting in 1998, Boeing had delivered just 50 Business Jets, and had sold a total of 73 as of this week, at a cost of $40 million to $50 million apiece. But the company is counting on sales of about 18 of the jets per year, and industry officials say an inability to land Business Jets at Teterboro hurts Boeing’s ability to market the plane.

"What Boeing’s concern is, is that you have an airport authority that is trying to usurp the F.A.A.’s authority over airport access and airport restrictions," said Steve Barlage, director of regional sales in the Boeing Business Jets office in Mullica Hill, N.J. near Philadelphia.

Boeing points out that the F.A.A. does not specify a weight limit for Teterboro, but allows for aircraft with wingspans of up to 118 feet, a foot wider than the span of a Business Jet.

The airport owner has its own concerns, however. "The Port Authority strongly believes that Teterboro’s runways, taxiways and infrastructure cannot adequately handle a continuous stream of jets that exceed the 100,000-pound weight limit," said Greg Trevor, a spokesman for the agency. "The 100,000-pound weight limit is the best way to balance the needs of the general aviation community with concerns of our neighbors who live and work near Teterboro airport."

Officials of Boeing, the Port Authority and the F.A.A. met to discuss the issue one Jan. 24, as part of what is known as an informal complaint process, and James Peters, an F.A.A. spokesman, said the agency was conducting its own study to determine what kind of weight Teterboro can handle. No decision date has been set, he said.

In the meantime, the Business Jets have been landing at Westchester, where the weight limit is 180,000 pounds, or at the region’s major airports. Though nearly twice as large as Teterboro, Westchester has virtually the same volume of traffic.

Safety concerns were heightened among residents near Teterboro in December 1999, when a private plane crashed a mile west of the 400-acre airport, killing the four people on board and injuring two people on the ground. This week, a state legislator who represents the area, Assemblyman Charles Zisa, asked residents to write to Jane F. Garvey, the F.A.A. administrator, and urge her to reject Boeing’s request.

Industry officials suggest that the Teterboro case could have a bearing on airport operators’ authority to limit air traffic, which has already been diminished after the courts struck down mandatory flight curfews as curbs on interstate commerce. Some suggested that by allowing Business Jets at Teterboro, the F.A.A. could open the flood gates for commercial airlines to begin operating from there.

The case could have an impact on manufacturers beyond Boeing. The Airbus A319, for instance weighs almost as much as the Business Jet.


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