News Article - March 23, 2007

Proposal to redesign PHL ‘most harmful’ for Delco residents.  
  The Federal Aviation Administration’s preferred alternative for the controversial proposed Airspace Redesign Project for Philadelphia International Airport will be announced at a congressional briefing today in Washington, D.C., officials said. County Council Chairman Andy Reilly -- a leading opponent of a plan that would divert flights over a large portion of the county -- said he didn’t expect to hear any good news and forecast "a disaster for Delaware County." The FAA will announce its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign Project, according to Mark Schweiker, chairman of the region’s CEO Council for Growth.

   Thursday afternoon, Reilly said he learned "the FAA plans to announce that it chose the Integrated Airspace Alternative, which calls for several new departure headings directly over Delaware County homes, schools, churches and businesses." Of the four proposed design alternatives, "this alternative was by far the most harmful to the residents of Delaware County," Reilly said. Like Reilly, U.S. Rep. Joseph Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, said there’s "been nods here and winks there" on what the FAA’s recommendation will be. "I would expect the preferred alternative of the four options is going to be the one we most don’t want," he said.

   However, he added the process is far from complete. The final decision isn’t expected until August. "It’s just another step. I think there’s a lot of good work being done by a lot of people," Sestak said. "I think we’re on the path we need to be, to make sure the option chosen doesn’t impact the quality of life over the district, and also ensure that Philadelphia area can be a hub of economic activity." The congressman said he is working with other representatives, including Aviation Subcommittee Chairman U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., for solutions in bettering the process Sestak described as "flawed."

   "We’re working together for a legislative approach in order to better ensure immediacy on the issues," Sestak said. "We’re going to continue to work on this issue through legislative means and also educational means." The FAA for several years has been studying how to reduce air traffic delays at the airport and airports in New York/New Jersey by revising departure/arrival flight paths. Still, Reilly is displeased.

   "This decision by the FAA means they are more concerned with the convenience of the airlines than the safety and quality of life of the county’s 550,000 residents," Reilly said. He has pointed out at previous hearings -- including a meeting headed Costello and Sestak March 12 -- the redesign wouldn’t significantly reduce flight delays, he said. Studies by an aviation consultant hired by the county last year revealed "that 72 percent of the delays at Philadelphia International Airport are caused by weather and another 12 percent are caused by mechanical problems and other airline deficiencies," Reilly said. "Any reduction in delays accomplished by this plan would be so small as to almost be immeasurable," he said.

   "We will await what noise mitigation strategies the FAA will propose to deal with these problems," he said. "The only mitigation strategy which is acceptable to county council and to our residents is to keep the planes over the Delaware River," Reilly said.

   The councilman said he wasn’t an invited guest to today’s briefing, but he plans to take a train to Washington to attend "as a representative of the half million people who live in the county." Several state legislators and municipal leaders in the communities expected to be impacted by the new flight patterns have staunchly opposed the airspace redesign plans, citing concerns about noise/air pollution, safety hazards and quality of life.

Source - Deleware Online