News Article - April 30, 2007

Delco readies for showdown with FAA  
  TINICUM - If elected federal, county and local officials' feelings on airport noise mitigation strategies is any barometer, the Federal Aviation Administration's town meeting Tuesday is sure to be raucous event. One state legislator is even providing a bus for concerned constituents from his district office in Swarthmore.

   From the head of the commissioners in Tinicum - where the airport is mostly located - to freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, officials aren't timid about stating their opposition to the FAA's Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign, which would reroute considerable air traffic over Delaware County from the Philadelphia International Airport. The meeting will be held by the FAA from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 45 Industrial Highway (Route 291), Essington.

   Tinicum commissioners President Thomas J. Giancristoforo Jr. urged all county residents to turn out and has made plans to accept a large crowd "for this very important meeting. "We are utilizing alternative parking areas to be designated by the superintendent of police and have added extra officers for traffic control to handle the large amount of residents expected," he said. "We in Tinicum Township are very pleased with the interest that all the communities have expressed concerning this issue.

   "We have just lost a proposed residential development due to this recommended change in airspace travel," he added. "Our homes, churches, schools, businesses and quality of life are at risk. "Make no mistake, the results of this change would be disastrous for our community and the affected surrounding towns. The huge noise increase and threat of falling debris from planes (as recently seen in Ridley Township) pose significant safety and health risks to our community."

   Giancristoforo pointed out that this is not a political issue, but an issue about the value of life. He urged Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, to join with his colleagues in Washington and simply not fund this FAA program. State Rep. Ron Raymond, R-162, of Ridley Park, whose district includes Tinicum, said he plans to express his displeasure with the FAA's new proposal.

   "They claim that they have reduced the number of flights by 25 percent, from what they proposed before," said Raymond, who was chairman of the state Commission on the Future of Transportation Entities and a bipartisan commission in 2004 holding hearings about the future of the airport. State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore, is providing a bus from his office, located at 630 Fairview Road in Swarthmore, to the meeting because many of his constituents have contacted him with concerns about the FAA's plan to redirect flights over the county.

   He expects a large attendance. To reserve a seat on the bus, call Lentz's office at (610) 544-7301 or e-mail Sestak said he not only sent notices to about 1,000 people on his e-mail list about the meeting, he met with air traffic controllers Friday at the airport who told him they had never been consulted about the airspace redesign study. He said he also was to attend a dinner of the Association of Boroughs Friday night, where the proposed flight plans were expected to be discussed.

   "There is a hidden, insignificant improvement in delays, but a very significant impact on the health, safety, the educational and property values of our citizens - that the juice is not worth the squeeze," Sestak said. "This is my number-one issue to stop this until they do it right and the planes don't come over Delaware County," he said.

   Sestak said the air traffic controllers told him almost all the delays were not caused by Philadelphia, but by the New York air route traffic control center and the Modena sector. "Normally on perfect conditions, an aircraft takes off with a 3-mile separation between it and the one ahead of it," Sestak said. "What happens, they will be often told, 'Just sit on the field until there's a 10 to 20 mile separation because the airspace controlled by New York cannot handle it,'" he said. "So why are we trying to get more aircraft off from Philadelphia? It doesn't make sense. "We need the public to come out and stress how poorly this study has been done," Sestak added.

   County Council Chairman Andrew J. Reilly said resident planning to attend the meeting Tuesday night need to be armed with several overriding facts, including a lack of communication from the FAA with residents. "County council's stand has not changed as a result of the April 6 release of the FAA's proposed mitigation plan, which will do little to protect residents from increased noise pollution and safety hazards that will result from increased air traffic," Reilly said.

   "Is a one-minute reduction in delays worth flying more planes over local neighborhoods at 400 to 3,000 feet?" he added. "Why subject Delaware County residents to increased air traffic, noise pollution and safety hazards when that will do little to reduce flight delays or improve business at the airport? "County council reiterates its stand against any FAA proposal that calls for additional flights to fan out over Delaware County neighborhoods. Departing flights should remain over the Delaware River until they reach an altitude of 3,000 feet."

   There will be an informational session followed by a question and answer session 8-9 p.m. The public comment period on the noise mitigation document closes May 11, and residents can also submit comments to the FAA through mail or e-mail. The FAA will publish its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the airspace redesign for New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia airports in June and make its final decision in August.

Source - Delco Times