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The Shopper News, February 28, 200l

Jets’ impact on Teterboro to be studied

By David Jones, Staff Writer

Wood-Ridge – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will conduct a study to determine the impact that heavy Boeing business jets would have on Teterboro Airport’s runways and infrastructure.

For over two years, Boeing has attempted to gain approval to allow their business jets, which can weigh up to 170,000 pounds, to take off and land at Teterboro on an ongoing basis.

According to the Port Authority, which operates the airport, Teterboro has had a weight restriction of 100,000 pounds in place since the late 1960s. Airplanes weighing more than the 100,000-pound limit must receive special permission to take off and land at Teterboro; permission which the Port Authority has thus far denied to Boeing.

"The Port Authority strongly believes that Teterboro cannot adequately handle a continuous stream of jets that exceed the 100,000-pound limit," Port Authority spokesperson Greg Trevor said. "The 100,000-pound limit is the best way to balance the needs of the general aviation community with the concerns of our neighbors."

However, Steve Barlage, director of regional sales for Boeing business jets, disputed the Port Authority’s findings.

"We did some extensive engineering over the last two and a half years," Barlage said. "[It] shows that the airport has the physical capabilities of handling airplanes in excess of 100,000 pounds without causing any long-term detrimental effect to the wear and tear of the airport."

Barlage said that while the Boeing Business Jet can weigh up to 170,000 pounds, the aircraft generally weigh from 120,000 to 150,000 pounds.

Barlage added that airplanes are classified by their wing span, not buy their weight. The Boeing Business Jet is a Class 3 airplane, which Barlage says Teterboro already services.

"From a safety perspective, the airport is already classified and can accommodate that sized airplane; they do it everyday," Barlage said.

In addition, Barlage said, Teterboro Airport has routinely granted permission for jets heavier than 100,000 pounds to use Teterboro Airport.

"The rule they have in place is a 30-year-old rule," Barlage said. "They’ve granted [permission] in the past. Now they seem to be changing [the rule] from a prior-permission [rule] to a prohibition [rule]."

But Trevor said that Teterboro has serviced fewer than six airplanes weighing in excess of 100,000 pounds in the last 18 months.

"That [permission] is granted only on a case-by-case basis, and it’s a very rare occurrence." Trevor said. "It is the Port Authority’s position that [Teterboro] would not be able to handle an ongoing stream of takeoffs and landings under these types of airplanes."

The FAA has served as mediator to help resolve the dispute. Now the FAA will conduct a study of its own to determine the impact the Boeing Jets would have on Teterboro.

"We’re currently doing an analysis on the load-bearing weight for the runways at Teterboro," FAA spokesperson Jim Peters said. "The regional office in Kennedy Airport is doing that analysis."

Peters declined to speculate on when the analysis would be complete, or what possible steps the FAA may take based on its findings.

Local and state officials have expressed their concern over the introduction of the Boeing jet, not just because of the potential impact it would have on Teterboro Airport’s runways, but also because of concerns related to issues of public safety and the environment.

New Jersey Assemblywoman Rose Heck (R-38th Dist.) cited the 1999 Hasbrouck Heights plane crash, in which a small aircraft crashed into a residential area on its approach to Teterboro Airport. That crash killed all four occupants of the airplane, but did not kill anyone on the ground.

"That little plane wedged itself between two trees. It was like a godsend," Heck said. "But if that were a 174,000-pound jet, it would have taken out blocks of homes. This is not an open area. We are heavily populated, north, east, south and west."

Wood-Ridge Councilman Richard Carbonaro said that the introduction of the Boeing jet was another sign that Teterboro Airport had grown too large for its surroundings.

Carbonaro is a member of the Coalition for Public Health and Safety, a group of 12 South Bergen county towns opposed to airport expansion, which is conducting a $42,000 study over the next several weeks to determine the impact of Teterboro Airport on the surrounding environment. That study will be conducted by Environ, an international environmental firm.

"If you talk with residents in the area, they’ll tell you there is soot on their houses, and oily film on the surface of their swimming pools,’ Carbonaro said. "On a summer night, it smells like kerosene in the air, which is basically what jet fuel smells like. People are afraid they are being poisoned."

While Environ conducts its own study, the Port Authority has backed a more extensive study to be conducted by the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. That study, which was originally proposed by Heck, is expected to take two to two and a half years to complete, and will cost the Port Authority approximately $1.6 million dollars, Heck said.

Carbonaro was critical of the Port Authority-sponsored study, noting that Port Authority is planning on spending $92 million dollars on improvements to Teterboro.

"Whenever you are putting money into an airport, you are planning on expanding that airport," Carbonaro said. "The Port Authority is doing this study hoping we will drop our study."

Trevor said, however, that the proposed $92 million in new spending will not be used to expand the airport, but to improve the airport’s existing facilities. According to Trevor, the Port Authority will use the money over the next five years to upgrade taxiways and improve runways. He emphasized that the money would not be used to bring in heavier planes such as the Boeing Business Jet.

For his part, Barlage said that Boeing understood many of the community’s concerns about the growth of Teterboro Airport.

"I think there are some legitimate concerns about the airport," Barlage said. "There’s been a tremendous growth in the jet traffic, so we just became the poster-child for all the ill wills in the community."

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