News Article - May 26, 2007

Airspace plan set for review  
  At the request of U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews, D-Haddon Heights, and Joseph Sestak, D-Pa., the Government Accountability Office will review an unpopular plan by the Federal Aviation Administration to redesign the airspace over New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. "The work has been assigned, but we are still in a very early stage with regard to defining the scope of the work or setting a timetable for completion," said Paul Anderson, managing director of the GAO office in Washington, D.C. Andrews said he expects the study to show the plan, which has been in the works for a decade, to be too costly and inadequate to reduce delays in a meaningful way. He expects results within a year.

   Philadelphia International and three major New York airports -- Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia -- rank among the worst in the country for on-time flights. Both congressmen oppose the plan because of the noise impact on constituents and potential cost. To date, the FAA has spent $50 million studying ways to overhaul the region's crowded airspace. On April 6, the FAA announced a plan to fan out westbound air traffic departing from Philadelphia in six directions over South Jersey and Delaware County, Pa.

   Two weeks later, the FAA responded to a rash of criticism from residents and reduced the number of paths to three. Gov. Jon S. Corzine and U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, and Frank Lautenberg, D-Cliffside Park, have also opposed the plan because it would increase the number of homes to be affected by greater volume and frequency of airplane noise. The FAA, which did not return a phone call Friday, has said it could implement the plan by the fall. "No federal agency is capable of organizing a two-car parade between now and the fall," Andrews said.

   "I'm reasonably certain this plan will collapse under the scrutiny of the GAO. Probably the best way, in my opinion, to reduce delays is to remove some of the freight traffic from Philadelphia International Airport and reallocate it to surrounding airports," Andrews said. Another concern is cost. "The FAA still has been unable to answer how much this plan will cost in software, training and new hires. I was told it will be in excess of $200 million," Andrews said. If the GAO concludes that the cost outweighs the benefits, Congress could withdraw future funding. "The strategy is the same we've used on dredging the Delaware River," Andrews said.

Source - Courier Post