2008-07-18 / Editorial/Opinion

We Hate To Say We Told You So

In the October 27, 2007 issue of The Wave, we addressed the issue of airline safety. In May, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had announced a new plan to cut down on airport congestion. A statement from Barrett Byrnes, who works in the John F. Kennedy Airport tower and is the union representative for its controllers, at the time said it best. "There has been a major increase in the number of flights. Add to that the fact that the FAA is now using three and four runways at a time rather than the traditional two, parallel runways and the 30 percent reduction in the number of controllers who work the tower and you can see what might happen." Although that statement was made more than a year ago, we now have seen what might happen. There have been two near-collisions at JFK Airport this month alone. In the first, on July 5, a plane on the approach to Runway 22L had to go around once again, bringing it into close proximity with a plane departing runway 13R. Those runways are perpendicular to each other. Before the new plan, perpendicular runways would never have been used at the same time, unless there was an emergency. After the plan was announced, three planes and sometimes four runways were used at the same time. On July 11, one plane was departing from Runway 13R while another was landing on 22L, perpendicular runways. They nearly crashed when one of the planes had to abort its approach. Remember, those planes closed in on each other within the airport boundary. However, there have been reports of nearcollisions in the skies around the airport; and the Rockaway peninsula is less than one minute's flight time from the runways where the collisions were averted. In October of 2007, we editorialized, "The proposed plan to use three runways at JFK Airport rather than two to handle traffic on a regular basis and the 30 percent reduction in air traffic controllers to handle those flights all add up to a more dangerous airport for local residents who live right across Jamaica Bay from the airport runways." Just this week, the FAA said that it would cut back on the use of perpendicular runways at JFK and that it would seek to bring more controllers from other parts of the nation to New York City. That is a start, but we fear that the changes will go away when congestion begins to build during this travel season. We hate to say we told you so, but we did and Rockaway will suffer if the FAA doesn't keep its promise to remediate the problem of near-collisions in our skies.

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