2002-02-09 / Front Page

FAA Takes ‘First Step’

By Howard Schwach

FAA Takes First Step'

By Howard Schwach

The first segment of the new flight rules that Congressman Anthony Weiner promises will eventually "reduce the number of flights over Rockaway by eighty percent" began last Monday, almost three weeks before it was scheduled to begin, according to a report by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).

"Beginning at 11 p.m. on Monday, February 4, air traffic controllers will use a procedure to direct aircraft that will depart from runway 31L at John F. Kennedy International Airport to an over-the-water exit corridor located off the tip of the western end of the Rockaway peninsula," says Arlene Salac, a spokesperson for the FAA in a press release dated February 1.

"The FAA was able to move up the date for implementing the new departure plan due to the cooperation of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association," Salac added. "Weather conditions and wind direction will determine when the controllers can use the new manual procedure. As of now, the procedure will be used in the late afternoon and evening hours."

"This will be the preferred routing controllers can begin using on Monday night," the FAA says. "We are also investigating the possibility of expanding the use of this controller-directed procedure during day operations when traffic conditions permit."

As aircraft depart runway 31L, controllers will instruct pilots to follow a course that gradually turns aircraft over the Spring Creek section of Brooklyn towards the ocean. As aircraft gain altitude, they will follow the Belt Parkway until reaching the inlet. That course will bring the aircraft just to the west of Breezy Point end of the Rockaway peninsula.

"The FAA made a commitment to the residents of Rockaway at a meeting last month to work towards reducing the number of aircraft that fly over the community," says Frank Hatfield, manager of the FAA's eastern region. "We believe that using this corridor will accomplish that goal."

Congressman Anthony Weiner had called that meeting in the wake of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Belle Harbor. He sees this as a first incremental step toward achieving that goal of an 80 percent reduction in flights.

"The FAA is doing this incrementally," Weiner told The Wave. "I am looking forward to the day when they will utilize that departure flight path all day long. This is a step in that direction."

"February 21 is still the magic date," he added, admitting that it might really take another 56 days beyond that to complete all the preparations for the program to be complete.

According to experts, the FAA has been developing this procedure for the past year. It will use a computer-based flight management system and global positioning satellite technology to enable the aircraft to fly a more precisely defined departure corridor.

"When this procedure is finalized, it will become a published departure procedure for Kennedy Airport."

Air traffic control personnel will "closely monitor" the use and progress of the new departure rules.

"There cannot be an estimate yet on how many flights will be affected," an FAA spokesperson told The Wave.

During the week beginning on January 5, however, there were 391 departures from Kennedy between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Generally speaking, runway 31L is the runway used most often for departures during this time of year due to wind direction imperatives.

"I'm looking to the day when people in Rockaway will look up and not see planes flying over the peninsula and will say, â018look at that, the plan worked,'" Weiner concludes.

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