FAA hears airport neighbors
By LISA GOODNIGHT
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS -- Bergen County residents told federal officials working on a plan to reduce delays at airports in the New York area to consider their safety and quality of life.
Close to 50 people gathered Tuesday for a Federal Aviation Administration meeting on the agency's plans to change flight patterns to reduce delays common to the region's airports -- among the nation's busiest.
In five of the last six years, Newark Airport has led the nation in delays, part of a larger problem that cost the industry $1.1 billion in 1998, according to the FAA's latest numbers.
"Delays are a major component of air travel. It's something Congress wants us to take a look at, and we owe it to the public," said Tom A. Bock, the FAA's manager of the agency's Airspace Redesign Project.
The project kicked off in April 1998, and so far $50 million has been allocated for the project, federal officials said. The agency is not expected to come up with a final plan that will affect airspace in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut until 2005, after environmental analyses are performed.
"We're not concerned about delays," said South Hackensack Mayor Nick Brando during a break in the meeting at the Holiday Inn on Route 17. "This isn't addressing our problem. . . . I'm concerned about the noise, the smell, and the quality of life."
Addressing the FAA panel, Martin Goldenberg, 76, of Hackensack said: "I'm a World War II veteran. I feel that my life is more in jeopardy now than it was then."
On Dec. 9, 1999, a plane approaching Teterboro Airport crashed in a back yard on Central Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights. All four people aboard were killed.
Bock told residents their concerns would be considered, and specifically to Goldenberg, he said: "We have the safest air traffic system in the world."
The FAA officials have come up with three working concepts to change the flight patterns. Under one, planes would come in higher and faster using global positioning satellite technology. That would spread out the planes and reduce traffic crossing the same routes.
Under another, known as the "four-corner concept," FAA planners would map a square of airspace around an airport and allow planes to enter at any corner. This would maximize use of airspace and reduce bottlenecks.
And third, the agency is considering ocean routing.
Arlene Salac, an FAA spokeswoman, said existing routes cannot be compared with the conceptual routes because they haven't been drawn yet. She said she expects that to happen in 2003.
The agency is seeking public comment about the airspace redesign plan until June.