2003-04-19 / Community

A Lesson For Rockaway Residents?

Court Backs FAA In Arizona Case
By Howard Schwach
A Lesson For Rockaway Residents?

A Lesson For Rockaway Residents?
Court Backs FAA In Arizona Case

Many Rockaway residents have been contemplating suing the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) for not keeping its promise to reroute flights away from the Belle Harbor area.

That promise was made at a meeting hosted by Congressman Anthony Weiner in early 2002, shortly after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the community, killing all 260 on board and five local residents on the ground.

A recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, however, may give them pause.

That court recently ruled that the FAA's Northwest 2000 Plan, which rerouted more than 107,000 commercial jets over previously quiet communities in the Northeast Valley in Arizona, has no significant noise impact over Cave Creek, Carefree, or Spur Cross Conservation Area.

John Hoeppner, the founder of an organization called "Quiet Skies," founder said, "Although we respect the Court's opinion we are disappointed by their decision." 

Hoeppner says, "Upon review of the 20-page court ruling it is apparent that the Court took the FAA's Environmental Assessment of the noise impacts as gospel.  The decision rendered by the Court today seemed to reflect the FAA assessment verbatim.  The court reiterated the FAA's claims that flights are at higher altitudes even though the FAA's own radar data prove they are not."

He says that the Court also agreed with the FAA that there is no significant aircraft noise impacts in the NE Valley. 

However, he says, the Court did not consider in their decision that aircraft noise complaints from NE Valley residents have soared as high as 18,800% over the prior flight routes.

Hoeppner notes, "We knew from the beginning that litigating against the FAA was somewhat of a long shot.  However, because the FAA failed to consider the concerns of our communities during the airspace redesign process and stonewalled the mediation process last summer, litigation was our only remaining option.  Although the FAA has prevailed in this case Quiet Skies supporters will sleep well knowing they made every humanly possible effort to restore the natural quiet to the NE Valley."

Regarding the future, Hoeppner suggests that the next steps for Quiet Skies will involve an aggressive campaign directed towards the United States Congress.

"This forces us to look at options other than a lawsuit," a local aviation activist who asked not to be identified says. "We have already gone to our Congressman and he forced concessions from the FAA. Unfortunately, those promises have never been activated during year and a half between the crash and now."

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