Underused New York Airport Proposed to Ease Teterboro Load

Oct. 7--Dogged by complaints about traffic at Teterboro Airport, the Port Authority wants to send some of its corporate jet traffic to an underused airport about 60 miles to the north.

The bistate agency's chairman said Thursday that he has met with officials at Stewart International Airport in Orange County, N.Y. The two sides have discussed making Stewart a reliever airport for Teterboro and the three major airports under the Port Authority's control.

"Stewart's not going to be La Guardia Airport, but what we'd like to see is Stewart alleviate some of the general aviation traffic we have at our four facilities," Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said.

Coscia said Port Authority and Stewart officials have discussed incentives that could lure corporate jet traffic to the airport. Among these would be helicopter shuttles to downtown Manhattan, less expensive hangar space and less-crowded runways.

They also are looking at a possible rail link to Stewart from Metro-North's Port Jervis line, which runs south through New Jersey to Hoboken. Eventually, that line could run directly into Manhattan through a new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Aviation experts say those incentives would have to be particularly enticing, though, to get corporate travelers to divert from an airport that's a 20-minute limo ride from Manhattan to one at least a one-hour drive away.

"Corporate aircraft are in demand because time is probably one of the most important aspects a company can have," said Jack Olcott, president of the New Jersey Aviation Association. "If you go to Stewart, what are you going to do to compensate for the lost time?"

The Port Authority has been studying air capacity in the region for the past few months and looking at potential spots to relieve crowded runways at its four airports, which combined handled more than 1.3 million flights last year.

In the dense neighborhoods around Teterboro, which handled an average of 550 flights a day last year, complaints intensified this year after a spate of aircraft incidents between January and May. These included the crash of a chartered corporate jet that failed to take off and then barreled across busy Route 46 before crashing into a clothing warehouse. Twenty people were injured in the crash.

Port Authority officials responded by kicking off a $20 million runway safety effort and promising to curb jet traffic by 10 percent.

But the Federal Aviation Administration, which typically frowns upon efforts to restrict air traffic, has already suggested it won't sign off on the restrictions.

Persuading aircraft owners to use another airport would be one way to avoid a potentially costly showdown with the FAA. The agency has the power to cut funding to airports that restrict flights.

Stewart's operators and New York politicians have for years tried to drum up business at the former Air Force base, which in 2000 was leased by New York state to a U.S. subsidiary of the London-based National Express Group.

The airport handled 181,399 commercial passengers on 11,856 flights in 2002, according to an airport report. Just under 125,000 total flights were logged that year, most of them general aviation.

"Stewart has the infrastructure already in place to accommodate any additional traffic," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in an August letter to Coscia, urging him to send traffic Stewart's way.

Charles Seliga, the airport's chief operating officer, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Coscia said Seliga and others at the airport have welcomed the thought of taking on some of the Port Authority's air traffic.

Exactly what relationship the two entities forge, however, is far from concrete, Coscia said.

He would not rule out the possibility that the Port Authority could take over operations at the airport if it were offered. But, he added, "Our interest isn't to own an additional airport. Our interest is to build capacity."

The Port Authority would need the New Jersey and New York legislatures to change the agency's charter if it were to seek an operational role in the airport. Under its current charter, its jurisdiction is limited to a 25-mile radius of New York Harbor.

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