2002-11-23 / Front Page

FAA Fails To Keep Arizona Promises

Similar To Those Made In Rockaway
Commentary By Howard Schwach
FAA Fails To Keep Arizona Promises Similar To Those Made In Rockaway Commentary By Howard Schwach

Similar To Those Made In Rockaway
Commentary By Howard Schwach

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) has made a number of promises to Rockaway and, despite Congressman Anthony Weiner’s contention that the agency has "substantially kept its promise" to Rockaway to reduce flights over the west end of the peninsula, most locals would agree that the planes continue to fly over that portion of the peninsula both day and night.

In January of this year, the FAA, at a meeting hosted by Weiner, said that it had a new plan, to begin in February, which would reduce flights by seventy percent.

That promise has obviously not been kept, and a new promise by the FAA to place a new beacon on the Marine Parkway Bridge and route planes over that beacon will supposedly begin some time next month.

It is instructive to look at a recent article by John Hoeppner writing in the Arizona Republic newspaper.

Hoeppner wrote:

"The FAA's controversial Northwest 2000 airspace rerouting plan. was Implemented on Feb. 21. The plan unleashes more than 135,000
flights annually from Sky Harbor and approximately 60,000 from Scottsdale
Airport over previously quiet terrain, and its consequence is the theft of
the Northeast Valley's quality of life.

William Withycombe, the FAA's western regional administrator, knowingly signed a sham environmental assessment on Dec. 11 that claimed the new air routes would have "no significant impact" on our environment.

The FAA's conclusion illustrates the consequences of a government agency
that arrogantly defies regulations that were put in place to protect the
environment. The adverse environmental impacts are obvious to anyone who does the math. When any quiet, remote community's overflights reach 135,000 per year (one every four minutes) - and at altitudes so low that the decibel level rivals that of a power lawn mower - people are going to notice the noise.

Yet the FAA promised in writing that flights over north Scottsdale, Cave Creek and Carefree would be so high (17,300 feet or more) that they would not be heard. The truth again is in the numbers. More than 1,065 airplanes flew below the promised altitude from Oct. 1 to 17.

Some residential property valuations directly underneath the flight paths have dropped by as much as 20 percent. Aircraft noise complaints at both airports skyrocketed this year through September compared with last year's.

The number of complaints, however, do not reveal the full extent of the consequences, which are
very human. A Carefree resident wrote to me, "First I cried. I wept on March 7 as I saw and heard the large jets swoop over my home."

From Scottsdale, "What began as a retirement dream has turned into a
retirement nightmare," and "Someone needs to realize the people on the
ground are suffering greatly."

From Cave Creek, "The natural quiet of the Spur Cross preserve has been ruined by NW 2000."

FAA environmental specialist Charles Lieber tried to mitigate the airspace rerouting consequences when he said, "We (the FAA) didn't have to even do an
environmental assessment on this project - we could just implement the
project."

He also was attempting to imply that the FAA has the right to implement new flight paths over any community at any time. But the truth is the FAA is required by law to disclose its intentions and assess potential negative environmental impacts when the magnitude of an airspace change is as great as it is for Northwest 2000.

Now, the FAA is refusing to disclose the 7,666 Freedom of Information
documents that led to the rerouting debacle."

The Supreme Court will soon hear the case against the FAA brought in Arizona.

While there are a number of differences between the Arizona case and our arguments in Rockaway, the arrogance of the obdurate FAA comes through in both cases.

What can be done about it remains to be seen. Many locals have a dwindling hope that Congressman Weiner can bring about change. Others argue that a lawsuit against the FAA might be the only answer.

Part of that answer depends on the outcome of the Arizona case and many localities around the nation that are nearby airports are closely watching that case with interest.


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