December 17, 2003
Teterboro, NJ - Following through on his promise to prevent Teterboro Airport from being turned into the New York Metropolitan area's fourth major airport and to protect the quality of life for local residents, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ9) today announced that his measure to permanently ban scheduled charter service at Teterboro Airport was signed into law by President Bush last Friday. The provision, which is part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill, closes the loophole that allowed charter aircraft, most recently Indigo Airlines, to operate at Teterboro Airport on a regular, scheduled basis. Rothman credited U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) with helping to ensure Senate approval of the provision he authored.
"The threat of Teterboro Airport becoming the New York Metropolitan area's fourth major airport, with planes taking off and landing on a scheduled basis, is gone now that my legislation is law," Rothman said. "The loophole that Indigo Airlines tried to exploit to offer scheduled charter service at little Teterboro Airport has been eliminated and the quality of life for the people of Northern New Jersey has been protected. I am very pleased that I was able to get my legislation passed through the Congress and signed into law so that the people of our region won't have Bergen County's general aviation airport turned into a much larger facility with planes operating on a regular schedule. This scheduled charter ban is what the people of Northern Jersey demanded and I am very happy to deliver it to them."
Rothman authored the provision included in the FAA Reauthorization bill after Indigo Airlines began operating scheduled charter service between Teterboro Airport and Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Despite a local rule barring scheduled service at Teterboro Airport, Indigo Airlines used a loophole in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations to initiate scheduled charter service there twice during the last three years. While Indigo suspended its service at Teterboro in June, until now the loophole remained for any copycat service to start operating at Teterboro Airport. Rothman's provision, which closes the loophole and prevents any other scheduled charter service from operating at Teterboro Airport, passed the House in June. Rothman then reached out to Senators Lautenberg and Corzine to ask them to ensure that the Senate would approve this provision in the final version of the FAA Reauthorization bill. Lautenberg and Corzine were instrumental in making sure the Rothman provision that passed the House was also approved by the Senate.
"Ensuring that Teterboro is properly utilized is as much a quality of life issue as it is a transportation issue," Senator Corzine said. "The New York - New Jersey metropolitan region is unique in that it has three major airports within 25 miles of Teterboro. This region does not need a fourth major airport."
Senator Lautenberg said, "If an airline wants to fly to North Jersey, they are welcome at Newark-Liberty, but not Teterboro. I fought hard to close this loophole to protect the integrity of Teterboro's role as a general aviation airport and to neighborhoods nearby."
In an effort to get the federal government to stop scheduled charter service through an executive branch administrative ruling, Rothman earlier this year met personally with U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, spoke daily with U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator, Admiral James Loy, and met and spoke on a daily basis with other top Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security officials. Rothman persuaded Secretary Mineta to write a letter to Admiral Loy asking for the TSA to review Indigo's operations at Teterboro Airport because the airline posed a threat to the region.
"I am very grateful that our Senators, Frank Lautenberg and Jon
Corzine, worked so hard to ensure that my provision barring scheduled charter service at
Teterboro Airport survived several legislative steps in Congress," Rothman added.
"They have been outstanding partners in our fight against aircraft noise and airport
expansion at Teterboro and to protect the quality of life of our area's residents."
Public charters banned at Teterboro
Flights that mimic commercial airline service, such as those once offered by Indigo Airlines, have been banned at Teterboro Airport under legislation signed into law by President Bush.
New Jersey congressional leaders announced the ban at the airport on Wednesday, pleasing nearby residents who have claimed for years that the roar of jet planes ruins their quality of life.
"That's truly wonderful news," said Carol Skiba of Hasbrouck Heights, a vocal opponent of the airport's operations. "Sometimes you have to listen to the residents. It's not all about listening to business."
The law was crafted over the summer by Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, to keep Teterboro from growing into a quasi-commercial airport. Teterboro is meant to be used by aviation enthusiasts and private jets.
Indigo, which stopped flying its Chicago-to-Teterboro routes several months ago, had four flights scheduled daily and allowed people to book the flights on the Internet, over the phone, or in person.
"What it really was was scheduled service ... utilizing a loophole in the current law," Rothman said Wednesday in Teterboro. "Indigo Airlines folded their tent a few months ago, but the loophole was still open. And now, there will be no more Indigo Airlines, no more Indigo copycats at Teterboro Airport.
"We've closed the loophole, my friends," Rothman said.
Officials at Indigo Airlines could not be reached Wednesday. Their corporate number was not working and their Web site was no longer running.
Indigo's operations at Teterboro were first reported in The Record earlier this year, and Rothman credited the newspaper Wednesday with bringing the issue to light.
Over the past six months, the congressman brought the issue to the attention of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, as well as members of the House Transportation Committee, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Transportation Security Administration.
The measure, which stops public charter flights only at Teterboro Airport, was inserted in the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration.
Officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates Teterboro Airport, said they support the legislation.
"The Port Authority has never allowed scheduled service at Teterboro Airport, and that policy remains in effect," said spokesman Tony Ciavolella. "Governor McGreevey has made it clear that the Port Authority must aggressively pursue any action to keep this policy in effect."
Public charters are a small but growing segment of the flight community. Essentially, a company such as Indigo charters a plane from an airline and then resells the seats to the public. The flight is technically "chartered," but seats are then resold individually.
The operations are regulated by the federal Department of Transportation and are fairly easy to start. A charter company strikes a deal to fly a certain route with the owner of a plane certified by the FAA to carry passengers. Then the charter operator fills out a two-page, 11-question prospectus and sends a $39 check to the federal DOT. A flight schedule, phone number, and type of plane are among the key pieces of information.
Many public charters fly to places not served by commercial service, such as Cuba.
The charters are one of several issues at Teterboro that have sparked opposition from surrounding communities.
A group of about a dozen municipalities has sued the Port Authority to get funding for an extensive environmental study to determine the effect of the airport on nearby residents. Earlier this year, the state agreed to fund the $450,000 study, and the lawsuit is close to being settled, said Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, who leads the coalition of towns.
"This is a good first step in slowing down the expansion of the airport," Lonegan said of the ban on public charters. "Unfortunately, you are still going to get the same amount of heavy-duty jet traffic, and it will continue to grow, even though there won't be [public] charter flights."
Even as Rothman claimed victory over public charters, another battle is ongoing to prevent the Boeing Business Jet, a 737 converted for business use, from using the airport.
Boeing has lobbied to gain access to Teterboro for its planes, and a pending FAA policy could force the Port Authority to allow the Boeing Business Jet to use Teterboro.
The FAA proposal would not allow airports to restrict aircraft based on weight, effectively eliminating the nearly 40-year-old rule in place at Teterboro that keeps out planes heavier than 100,000 pounds. The Boeing 737 can weigh upward of 170,000 pounds.
Rothman has a clause in the pending transportation spending bill that would prevent large planes from landing at the airport. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, which is expected to take up the measure early next year.
Sen. Jon S. Corzine, D-N.J., said he was confident the Senate would approve the bill with the clause included.
"It will pass sometime in January or early February," he said Wednesday. "This particular piece of legislation will not be one of those controversial elements. We do have to watch to make sure it doesn't get dropped from the bill."
Indigo operates a fleet of Embraer 135 Business Jets configured with 16 executive-style seats. Indigo jets fly at the same altitudes and speeds as larger commercial jets. Flights are crewed with a captain and first officer. Each jet has a large lavatory located in the rear of the cabin.
Up to 3 pieces of
luggage/items are allowed plus carry-on. Indigo follows the commercial aviation standards
for size and weight for luggage. To book reservations call 1-877-4INDIGO
(1-877-446-3446) or go online at www.flyindigo.com