News Article - April 11, 2007

Council chair: FAA statistics inaccurate  
  Delaware County Council Chairman Andrew J. Reilly said he pored over the Federal Aviation Administration’s mitigation report over the weekend and found it to be inaccurate and deceptive. "The FAA offering statistics and capacity projections that don’t add up," Reilly wrote in a prepared statement. "(The report) relies on flawed data and major speculation." Reilly called the report’s indication that fewer county residents will be affected by the noise of jet engines "smoke and mirrors," saying a plane’s flight path could be altered after it reached an altitude of 400 feet, making much of Delaware County still vulnerable to the noise pollution. The report also operated on the assumption delays will increase at the Philadelphia International Airport in the next four years. Delays decreased from 2005 to 2006, refuting this assumption, according to Reilly. "Delaware County residents can expect a lot more noise and hardly any benefit if the FAA’s proposals are implemented later this year," Reilly said.

   Reilly added the administration is working with the airline industry to increase airport capacity, and therefore profits, without taking into consideration the use of other possible airports, like Allentown or the recently vacated Willow Grove Naval Air Station. The FAA welcomed Reilly’s comments, but had no comment. Spokesman Jim Peters said it is, and has been, the policy of the administration to accept comments from the public or local governments either through the mail, in person or electronically. But FAA officials will not respond to the comments, a stipulation that many residents who have attended FAA informational meetings in the past have found frustrating. The FAA’s report claims to drastically reduce the number of residents its airport expansion plan will directly impact.

   Original estimates that 115,000 residents would be affected by the new flight paths have been reduced to 7,000, according to the report. And the noise affecting those residents would be at decibel levels between 45 and 60 (about the volume of a piano being played), according to the report. Reilly said the report claims to slash projected delays by 280,000 minutes per year. "It sounds like a large number," he said. "But that could amount to less than one minute per flight. Why place this burden on the county for that?"

   There were more than 530,000 arriving and departing flights at the airport in 2005, and about 515,000 in 2006, according to information obtained from the airport Web site. Reilly said in addition to submitting his critical analysis of the mitigation report to the FAA, he has met with officials from U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s office and Steve Kelly, the FAA’s project manager. In addition, Reilly said he will be meeting today with U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont. Sestak spoke out against the report Friday when it was released, calling it "insufficient and not acceptable." The FAA will tour the region in the coming weeks, hosting meetings about the new plan.

   The meetings are held to give residents an "opportunity to speak with FAA officials," Peters said. Residents will also be able to have their comments put on the record for the administration to consider. But they will not have the opportunity to have a debate about those comments. The comments will be submitted in public, and reviewed in private. The administration will then release its final environmental impact statement on the airport redesign in June, and that report will have taken into account all the concerns and opinions submitted, Peters said. "In the final impact statement, we will address all the comments," Peters said.

   For Delaware County residents, the meeting on the new plan will be May 1 at the Holiday Inn in Tinicum. A final "record of decision" on the future of flight paths at the airport is expected to be released by the administration later this summer.

Source - Delco Times