2007-03-30 / Front Page

FAA Redesign: More Flights Over Rockaway

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

An aircraft landing at John F. Kennedy Airports Runway 4L on Wednesday. Many Rockaway neighborhoods will see more traffic overhead as a result of a new FAA plan to increase the number of flights in the region.An aircraft landing at John F. Kennedy Airports Runway 4L on Wednesday. Many Rockaway neighborhoods will see more traffic overhead as a result of a new FAA plan to increase the number of flights in the region. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has some good news for Rockaway residents as well as some bad news.

The good news is that travelers will have fewer delays either in the air or on the ground and their flights are more likely to be on time than at present.

The bad news is that more flights will fly over the peninsula beginning as soon as August.

On Friday, March 23, the FAA held a telephone press conference to pass the news about "significant changes in air control and routes" to media all over the tri-state area, including The Wave.

That plan involves alterations to the airborne highways over 31,000 square miles in five states, although the biggest impact, an FAA spokesperson said, would be the three local airports - John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty.

"Aviation use is growing and will continue to grow," Steve Kelley, the FAA Airspace Redesign Program Manager said in response to a question from The Wave concerning an increase of flights. "That means more planes in any given area nearby an airport. If more planes are going to depart from JFK Airport, they're probably going to fly over Rockaway."

Kelley added that they were going to attempt to mitigate the increased noise over the peninsula in a number of ways, including scattered headings and bringing more aircraft over undeveloped land.

Rockaway residents have been particularly sensitive to flights over the peninsula since November 12, 2001, when an Airbus A300 aircraft flying as American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor.

After the crash, Congressman Anthony Weiner negotiated for more than a year with the FAA to keep planes from flying over the peninsula, but the flights continued and have now increased.

The plan announced last week, called the Integrated Airspace Alternative, is geared towards updating flight patterns, unchanged since the 1960s, to better handle the increasing level of flights in the Northeast Corridor.

The plan would make arrivals and departures more efficient by combining low and high-altitude airspace and would cut delays by about 12 million minutes a year in the three local airports, Kelley said.

Politicians in a number of states are gearing up to fight the plan. They say that the plan will have a massive negative quality of life effect for hundreds of thousands of people in the area and will drive down property values under the new flyways.

Some local politicians contacted by The Wave said that they had not had a chance to study the plan and would not comment until they did.

A meeting to discuss the noise mitigation and to provide a place for public comment on the plan will be held at the Airport Marriott Hotel at LaGuardia Airport on April 23.

The FAA will publish an Environmental Impact Study and make a final decision on the plan in August.

The plan could begin at some airports shortly after the final decision is made.

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