Crash Renews Call for Use Of ‘Breezy Track’
Crash Renews Call for
Use Of ‘Breezy Track’
By Howard Schwach
When Flight 587 crashed into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, there were many who were not entirely surprised that an aircraft accident impacted the peninsula.
"The possibility of an aircraft accident has always been in the back of my mind," said one Belle Harbor activist. "With hundreds of flights coming low over Rockaway each day, it seemed like it would be only a matter of time before one did not make it."
That activist voices an opinion that can be heard in many parts of the Rockaway peninsula. Every resident who looks up in fear every time a plane passes over silently enunciates that possibility as well.
The fear that Flight 587 could happen again at any time has renewed the call to keep jet airliners from over flying the community.
For their part, the airlines, including American Airlines, whose Airbus went down last week in Belle Harbor, say that they are only following the rules laid down by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Each of the airlines is provided with departure and arrival "slots" assigned by the FAA to the airports and then by the airports to specific airlines.
While many of those "slots" require the planes to turn right on takeoff, travel westward over Jamaica Bay and then exit to the ocean through the Breezy Point channel, few seem to take that route, a route that takes about four minutes longer and therefore uses more aviation gasoline, according to local experts.
"All a pilot has to do is request of the tower permission to go straight out over Rockaway and it is routinely granted by air traffic controllers," says one local who has studied the problem for years. "The FAA rules are honored more in the breach than in anything else."
That expert tells The Wave that the "Breezy Track," as it is called by pilots and air traffic controllers, adds about $150 per flight to the airline’s fuel cost.
Most of the flight paths now in use date from the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the air routes over New York were much less congested.
According to Arlene Salac, a spokesperson for the FAA, new routes are under study.
That organization expects a draft report to be ready for public review by 2003.
That is not soon enough for local politicians or local residents.
Congressman Anthony Weiner has proposed legislation that would fine an airline whose plane flies over the peninsula $10 thousand per violation.
Weiner expounded on his legislation at a meeting held Monday night at PS 114, a public school nearby the crash scene.
"We’re trying to do with legislation what cajoling and negotiations could not accomplish," Weiner told the 500 people at the meeting. "All of the three groups involved with the flight path decision, the FAA, the air traffic controllers and the airlines know that they should take the Breezy Track, but they regularly allow pilots to deviate by a couple of degrees and that means they are going to cut right over the peninsula."
"We have to say to them once and for all that they built the airport near water to lessen the impact on nearby communities," Weiner added. "We have to tell them to fly those water routes."
Weiner promised to convene another meeting between the community, the FAA and those who are in charge of the air traffic controllers to see if there is a solution to aircraft regularly flying over Rockaway.
And, while many of those at the meeting demanded an immediate stop to the overflights, it is clear that things will not change in the near term.
"There is no magic wand we can wave and make the flights stop," Weiner told the audience at PS 114. "If we could, we would have done it a long time ago."