Runway Rumble Grows Louder at Fort Lauderdale Airport

Broward County is seeking help from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to limit use of a noisy runway at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The cities of Dania Beach and Hollywood filed similar petitions, which will likely be consolidated with the county's.

The spat between the Federal Aviation Administration and local governments stems from a disagreement about how to handle delays at the fast-growing airport, which has among the worst delays in the country.

In June, the FAA said it would use the northwest-southeast runway, known as the ''diagonal runway'' to alleviate delays.

But neighbors who hear the roar of airplanes from the airport cried foul.

For several years, the county and the FAA had an informal agreement to only use the diagonal runway when the regular runway was unavailable due to crosswinds or maintenance. The county's rules allow the use of the runway due to ''operational necessity.''

But the FAA says that fixing the delays is now an operational necessity. Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says the diagonal runway has een used occasionally since June as the ''runway of last resort.''

The FAA had not seen a copy of the petition, Bergen said.

Barbara Hill, an attorney for the county, said the FAA did no studies before making the change.

''They never took a hard look at what kind of impact it was going to cause,'' she said. ''That is what we hope the court will say.''

But a local aviation attorney who had not reviewed the court records said he would expect the court to side with the FAA.

''If the county can show the FAA didn't follow its rules and policies, it might have a good argument,'' said Miami aviation attorney Robert Feldman, a pilot who has used the disputed runway himself.

But if the runway complies with all FAA regulations, ''it probably would be denied,'' he said.

So far, meeting planners and convention delegates have not cited flight delays among their complaints, said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. ''I think in time, if nothing changes and delays keep up or even get worse I think there is definite potential for negative impact,'' Grossman said.

After Labor Day, the county expects to file a brief asking a judge to halt use of the diagonal runway until an environmental assessment is done.

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission will likely discuss whether to join the petitions against the FAA when it returns from its break in September. Davie has not taken any action.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press