The 'Plane' Truth
I wrote the following letter shortly after TWA Flight 800 crashed in 1996. It was never made public even though it was sent to my local newspaper. I do hope that some attention will be paid to it now.
The disaster of TWA Flight 800 has led me to remember other air crashes and mishaps in and around JFK. The plane that crashed in what is now the bird sanctuary in Broad Channel, the Italian airliner the crashed into the pier in Jamaica Bay, and the plane that came down across Rockaway Tpke. to name a few. In particular I remember a quiet, very foggy night, in Jan. 1990, when no planes were flying over my house in Arverne ---- except for one. A short time later we learned that an Avianca Airliner had crashed on the north shore of Long Island. After seeing a diagram of the flight pattern that this plane followed we know that it was the one plane that we heard that fateful night. Knowing that it crashed 10 to 20 minutes after passing over our home did not make us feel comfortable and we said "What if --- ?"
On Wednesday, July 17, 1996 the planes and their noise were unrelenting. Planes were flying over every 3 to 4 minutes. Again, I know that TWA Flight 800 passed over our house less than 20 minutes before it crashed. Again, we said "What if--?"
I don't want to minimize the plight of the victims or relatives of this terrible disaster, they are in my thoughts and prayers. However, there is another aspect that should be looked at.
I live in the Somerville section of Arverne on Beach 69 street. The planes flying in and out of JFK, especially during the summer months, seem to target us as an air corridor. From time to time I call and complain but I doubt if anyone is listening. You can't sleep at night, or complete a sentence in a conversation during the day, due to the incessant and continuous noise. Of course you're always thinking --- the noise is unbearable, but what if?---
I consider this plane, going down minutes after flying over our area, a real close call. It makes us feel very apprehensive and to say the least uncomfortable. Something must be done about flight patterns. By flying over the Arverne area they are flying over the largest north/south land mass on the Peninsula. An area that is quite heavily populated and growing.
Why can't they fly over the middle or closer to the north shore of Jamaica Bay, west to Riis Park where there are no homes, or past Rockaway Point, then out over the ocean? The north shore of Jamaica Bay west of JFK is bordered mainly by marshland and the Belt Pkwy. Not too many people to bother there. Besides, the plane would be flying over water, thus averting a tragedy to the people on the ground in case of an accident.
Years ago, at a meeting with airport people, I was told this couldn't be done because of certain turns the plane would have to make. However, from where I live I see some pretty fancy maneuvering to avoid certain areas. I agree with a column in the July 20, 1996 Wave. A case in point: On Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, 1996 we had some fairly strong northwest winds. The planes were taking off from the runway that runs from the east to the west/northwest. Usually under these conditions the planes would continue on a west or northwest direction after takeoff which would possibly bring them over Howard Beach. Every plane that took off these two days made a left curve to the south almost immediately after leaving the runway and passed somewhere over the middle part of Rockaway Beach. A few even made a U-turn to the east and passed over half the peninsula.
There is definitely something wrong, I might even say discriminatory, about this. We can't let the FAA make us sitting targets, either for their noise, or in case of an accident. Our community board, our council people, our mayor, our governor must take our quality of life into consideration. Is anyone listening?
Now, fast forward to Oct. 31, 1999. This was even more significant to me. Shortly after 1 a.m. I was preparing for the night and setting my clock back to E.S.T. I realized getting to sleep would be difficult due to the constant noise of planes flying overhead. I stood by my window for quite some time and watched as plane after plane took off and flew over the area in which I live. Because I did this, not only did I hear Egypt Air 990 flying over my house I had to have seen it, approximately 30 minutes before it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Believe me, this gave me quite a scary and uncomfortable feeling. Again--"What if --- ?"
Until a little more than a year ago one could call the noise complaint line for the F.A.A. at 718-995-5755. Now you are told that the F.A.A. can no longer accept aircraft noise complaints and you must call the specific airport you're referring to. The number for J.F.K. is 718-244 -3881. You must punch in your name, address and phone number before you can voice your message. I found that not enough time is given to punch in the requested information. I feel it is just a way to discourage anyone from calling in the complaints. I found that I can punch in my phone number and one or two keys after each prompt and I finally get to where I can voice my complaint on tape. There is definitely something wrong with this system. Since when does the airport and not the F.A.A. control takeoffs and landings? They are doing all they can to discourage any and all complaints. Something must be done. Air traffic patterns must be changed to account for the quality of life and safety of those that live on the ground beneath this umbrella of noise and danger.