Opposition yesterday to the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to revamp airspace along much of the Northeast came even before the agency held a conference call to outline and defend its decisions.
After months of hearings and review, the FAA picked an option many had long expected: A complex plan the agency says will "combine high-altitude and low-altitude airspace to create more efficient arrival and departure routes." The agency says it has further plans to minimize noise impacts on communities.
Essentially, for Newark Liberty International Airport, the decision would mean having planes make turns after takeoff instead of heading straight out, and then allowing flights at different altitudes to increase the outbound capacity. Inbound flights would get a second landing route. The FAA's goal is to lessen airspace congestion.
FAA critics, led by New Jersey's two U.S. senators, vehemently disagree.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez released a letter they sent to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey before the agency's conference call with reporters.
The two Democrats asserted the proposal will "force scores of New Jerseyans . . . to have their lives interrupted and further burdened with the nuisance of having more noise from aircraft flying over their homes and businesses."
The redesign affects a 31,000-square-mile airspace, stretching from Connecticut to Delaware and including Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy International, La Guardia, Teterboro and Philadelphia International airports. The FAA will hold five public hearings this spring, including one in Newark on April 25.
Newark Liberty, JFK and La Guardia airports are typically at or near the bottom of on-time arrival and departure statistics for the nation's busiest airports.
"If we do nothing to address those delays, air traffic will increase and those delays will increase in turn," said Steve Kelley, the FAA's airspace redesign program manager, during the conference call.
The FAA estimates its plans will save "an estimated 12 million minutes of delay annually" for Newark Liberty, JFK, La Guardia and Philadelphia airports.
Agency officials said they would soon release further strategies to minimize noise. At Newark Liberty, those ideas will include adjusting departures so planes fly over non-residential areas and allowing inbound planes to reduce altitudes more slowly.
But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Newark Liberty, JFK, La Guardia and Teterboro, also accused the FAA of failing to devise a plan that significantly reduced delays and noise.
"For example, we recommended using routes over the Hudson River and the Long Island Sound that would have further reduced delays and noise impacts, but that was dismissed," the Port Authority said in a statement.
Kelley, however, said moving planes along the Hudson would have attempted to help Newark Liberty while creating adverse effects on flights to and from La Guardia Airport.
"We're going to fight it," said Robert Belzer of New Jersey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise, referring to the FAA's overall proposal. He said residents in Bergen County, Elizabeth, Newark and Morris county will be among those hit hardest by increased noise under the agency's proposal.
Additional information about the redesign can be found on the FAA's Web site at and clicking on the airspace redesign line on the page's left-hand side.
Ron Marsico can be reached at or (973) 392-7860.
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