PHL Plan: Cut Flight Delays, Add Noise

Dec. 21--Tinicum Township residents could hear more noise from airplanes departing Philadelphia International Airport under scenarios outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration in a study released yesterday of how to reduce air-traffic delays in...


Dec. 21--Tinicum Township residents could hear more noise from airplanes departing Philadelphia International Airport under scenarios outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration in a study released yesterday of how to reduce air-traffic delays in the Northeast.

The effect of changing aircraft departure patterns on Tinicum and other Delaware County communities was contained in an FAA draft environmental-impact statement for its New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia airspace redesign plan.

The statement is part of a study that began six years ago to determine whether changing the way planes take off and land at airports across a five-state area could get passengers to and from their destinations faster. The study covers 21 airports in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, a region with 29 million residents that the FAA called one of the world's busiest for air traffic.

FAA officials said in a briefing for reporters that they still were studying four airspace redesign choices, including two that would change little or nothing about flight paths, but would not help ease congestion.

"At this time, there is no preferred alternative," said Steve Kelley, the FAA project manager.

The study's findings show that the best way to reduce flight delays is to let pilots of aircraft taking off to the west from Philadelphia -- directly over Tinicum -- choose one of six flight paths as they climb to cruising altitude. Today, pilots choose from three flight paths, with some flights turning left over the Delaware River and away from land immediately after takeoff.

Creating six possible paths would spread aircraft noise over a wider area and would increase noise over communities to the west of the airport, the study said. There would be little or no environmental effect other than noise, because the plan requires no change to the land or structures, the study found.

Altering flight patterns and making other changes to air traffic management could cut the average flight delay across the five-state region from the current 22 minutes to 19 minutes, the study said. The 22-minute average delay is calculated over a 24-hour period, which means flights often are delayed much longer during peak travel times at Philadelphia and other major airports.

Tinicum Township manager Norbert Poloncarz said many planes did not make the left turn after takeoff and flew directly over his town. About two-thirds of Philadelphia airport is in Delaware County.

"The louder the noise gets, the more it hurts the quality of life... and has an impact on our schools and property values," Poloncarz said.

The airspace redesign study is independent of other FAA studies under way about lengthening or realigning runways at Philadelphia airport as a way to reduce congestion.

Philadelphia airport officials had not seen the FAA report and could not comment yesterday.

Release of the draft impact statement marks the start of a long review process that will include about 30 public meetings throughout the five-state area from February through April. Hearings in the Philadelphia area are expected to be scheduled in late March, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.

A final decision will be issued late next year, Peters said.

ONLINE EXTRA

For background from the Federal Aviation Administration on the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia airspace redesign, go to http://go.philly.com/

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Contact staff writer Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com.

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