Why we shouldn't restrict Teterboro air traffic
By TOM CARVER
THE POSSIBLE INTRODUCTION of the Boeing Business Jet and stories "uncovering" scheduled charter service out of Teterboro have again given rise to an emotional debate about the airport, its neighbors, and the future. Perhaps it is time for a reasoned dialogue on these issues that might produce a solution for proponents and their anti-airport adversaries.
New Jersey is what it is because of where it is. Sandwiched between the world's financial and communications capital and the nation's eternal second city, Philadelphia, may cause us some everyday problems such as congestion and noise, but it also has allowed New Jersey to become a highly successful international competitor.
A principal reason behind New Jersey's success are the facilities that the often maligned Port Authority of New York and New Jersey designed, built, operated, and maintained at no cost to either the state or their taxpayers. (Expenses are covered by user fees, such as tolls and landing fees.) In aviation, our region is served by the greatest system of airports in the world. Granted, all four airports have problems, but they are problems of success.
Teterboro Airport's role, while different, is as important as La Guardia, Kennedy, and Newark. Teterboro not only serves a distinct and growing business-related market, but infuses more than $460 million annually into the Bergen County/northern New Jersey regional economy.
All this may be of little interest to the Carlstadt homeowner who is fed up with low-flying planes, but it should be a major concern to most of us, including our political leaders. For every person discomforted by aircraft noise, thousands benefit as a result of every takeoff and landing. The New Jersey Aviation Association strongly believes that this dichotomy of benefits vs. hardship is the place to begin the dialogue, not end it.
The issue of the BBJ, which has triggered the latest burst of media coverage, will be settled by an objective factual analysis by the FAA. The Port Authority has announced that regardless of the FAA's findings, it is ready to proceed to the courts if the federal agency does not uphold the Port Authority's self-imposed 100,000-pound gross weight limit now in effect at Teterboro.
Regardless of the outcome, this much is already known. The BBJ may be bigger than most aircraft operating at Teterboro, but it is quieter than many of Teterboro's existing fleet. The BBJ is not a harbinger of scheduled service. It is designed to be used as a specific business tool, not as a 737 passenger plane from which it was derived.
Furthermore, the Port Authority remains steadfast in its opposition to scheduled service at the airport. Hopefully, opponents will base their opposition on facts, not misconceptions.
The actual issue at Teterboro is neither the BBJ nor any embryonic scheduled charter service. The issue is whether because of citizen complaints, artificial limits will be placed on the airport's ability to handle its specific market and to produce the continuing economic benefit the facility provides. Should the airport be restricted, as some have suggested, what consequences would ensue?
For one, any traffic unable to land at Teterboro would probably head for Newark, causing further congestion and delays for everyone. But more important would be the potential economic problems. Examples show the price could be steep.
Residents near Chicago's Midway Airport were overjoyed when airlines abandoned that field for more remote Chicago O'Hare many years back. Unfortunately, along with the noise, so went the jobs, the development, and the progress. Southwest Chicago became a virtual commercial wasteland.
Attitudes soon changed, and now Midway is undergoing tremendous growth. The city hopes to use it as the major development tool for the whole area. The lesson of Midway must be heeded -- there is a price to pay when a substantial economic generator is stifled.
However, economic benefit is only one side of the equation, and it must be balanced with the legitimate concerns of those affected by airport operations.
Our association is committed to not just promoting industry interests, but also to addressing those concerns. We believe to do so will require thoughtful analysis and reasoned dialogue, not tossing misinformed aerial grenades across the divide.
Some positive steps have been taken at Teterboro. The Port Authority has agreed to underwrite a study of aircraft emissions in order to determine if they are the source of pollutants in nearby residential areas. The FAA is analyzing an offset approach to Runway 19, which, if feasible, will eliminate landings directly over Hackensack University Medical Center.
The problems at Teterboro are not unique. Similar issues have surfaced at airports around the country. We believe it is time to recognize and accept that with the economic benefit there is a downside that must be addressed. It may take new thinking and eventually new policies. To this end, I have urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to form a national task force to discuss these problems and investigate possible approaches.
Aviation is the bulwark of our national transportation system and our gateway to the world. It is the base of our international commerce, the base of New Jersey's economic success.
The New Jersey Aviation Association is committed to the success of the state's aviation industry. However, this success must come as a result of cooperation and understanding of our residents, not at their sufferance.
Tom Carver is president of the New Jersey Aviation Association, which is made up of pilots, aircraft owners and operators, airport vendors, and aviation manufacturers.