2002-01-26 / Editorial/Opinion

Blowin’ In The Wind

Blowin' In The Wind

With much hoopla, Congressman Anthony Weiner announced on Sunday that the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) would be implementing new rules next month that would "reduce air flights over Rockaway by 80%. Planes that once flew directly over Belle Harbor will now be directed over Riis Park or out through the slot between Breezy Point and Coney Island. That is good news for a Belle Harbor community that lost five residents in the November crash of American Airlines Flight 587; a community that looks up each time a plane over-flies the peninsula. An additional promise from Weiner was that "when practicable," there would be no flights over the community during nights and morning hours. According to Weiner and to the FAA officials present at the community meeting, the new flight paths were made possible by new satellite technology that could handle up to 24 flights per hour. Those flights would be directed by computer to utilize the Breezy Track. When there are more than 24 flights in an hour, which only happens during peak flight hours, then the planes would be directed over Riis Park. Many Rockaway residents at the meeting were skeptical, however. We have to agree with them. First of all, the direction that aircraft must fly for both takeoffs and landings is dictated by the wind. When the wind dictates, planes will have to fly due south, over Rockaway, to get out over the ocean. Frank Hatfield, manager of air traffic control for the FAA made that point clear. "To the extent that we can, everybody will use that (Breezy) track," he told the meeting. Secondly, the new rules have no effect on landings. Planes will still be landing over the Dayton Towers buildings and over many other parts of the peninsula. Third of all, there is no sanction for pilots who ignore the FAA rules and make a flight path of their own over the peninsula. "They do what we tell them," an FAA official says. "They don't deviate from our plan without notifying us." Yet, for the past ten years, pilots have been doing just that. A bill proposed by Weiner that would fine airlines for breaking the rules has effectively gone nowhere. We can only hope that the new flight paths will hold and that 80 percent fewer plane overfly the community. Until we see it for ourselves, however, the new plan is just blowin' in the wind.

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