FAA Picks Plan for Less Clogged Airspace

NEW YORK_The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday said it has selected a new flight pattern to ease delays in the congested airspace around New York and Philadelphia, but the new system will also bring noisy jets over some communities for the first time.

The redesign plan involves alterations to the airborne highways across 31,000 square miles in five states. FAA officials said the option they selected will bring desperately needed efficiency to a patchwork airspace map that has been unchanged since the 1960s.

The new system will save an estimated 200,000 hours in delays a year - or about six minutes per flight - at the region's four major airports. The FAA estimates the reduction could save the airlines as much as $720 million a year.

But it also means some people in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut will hear planes rumbling overhead for the first time.

Some elected officials immediately assailed the plan for not doing enough to keep jets away from homes.

U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, said the plan would bring unacceptable, elevated noise levels to 300,000 people in the state.

They called for the plan to be reevaluated "with aircraft noise reduction as a major design element" in a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat whose district lies just west of Philadelphia International Airport, said Congress should intervene and prevent the plan from being implemented.

Final approval of the proposal won't take place until at least August. The FAA plans to spend the next few months discussing ways to reduce noise in communities that will be seeing more flights.

FAA program manager Steve Kelley said the agency is working on a variety of plans to ease noise, like routing planes over less densely populated areas and having jets descend in a way that uses less engine power.

The $50 million, six-year redesign involved an analysis of the routes at 21 airports, but it will have its biggest effect on John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, Philadelphia International and LaGuardia.

Those airports, along with Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, had the highest percentage of delayed flights in 2006.

The FAA rejected plans that would keep the system as-is, made milder modifications to routes, or sent more planes out over the Atlantic Ocean.


Associated Press Writer Alison Lapp contributed to this report from Philadelphia.


On the Net:

Federal Aviation Administration: http://www.faa.gov/nynjphl_airspace_redesign