Tinicum shoots down FAA’s airspace redesign proposal|
Two weeks after Delaware County Council made it clear it did not want the Federal Aviation Administration to increase flight paths over sections of the county, Tinicum Township officials are following suit. In a May 25 letter signed by Commissioners’ President William Wasch, township officials told Steve Kelley of the FAA that redesigning airspace above Tinicum would only increase noise, sound and air pollution, decrease property values, threaten wildlife and add anxiety. "The bottom line is that a few minutes saved at the airport is not worth sacrificing the quality of life of our residents," said Tinicum Township Manager Norbert Poloncarz, one of the officials who drafted the letter to Kelley. Poloncarz said that he and his colleagues submitted the letter as part of the airspace redesign’s public review and comment process, which ends June 1 before a rendered decision is expected early next year. Kelley, manager of the project, said at a March 30 meeting in Ridley Township that the three airspace redesign plans proposed by the FAA aim to alleviate delays at Philadelphia International and 20 other airports along the Northeast corridor whose flight patterns haven’t been redesigned since the 1960s. He pointed to a chart at the March meeting that showed an average 44-minute delay at Philadelphia International affecting 27,437 flights in 1999. But Tinicum and county officials want the FAA to leave Philly’s flight plans alone. Poloncarz said the FAA plan that aims to re-route planes over Tinicum would give aircraft an option of flying out of Philadelphia to the right (over Tinicum), to the left (over New Jersey), or straight (over the Delaware River). As it stands now, aircraft operators only have the option of flying straight out of the airport over the Delaware River. Some residents in Tinicum Township already experiencing a Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) of 45 decibels would see their DNL increase to 60 decibels. In December, the Daily Times reported that a federally funded noise abatement program would modify 445 Tinicum homes to partially insulate them from the sound of airplanes, targeting those specifically in the 65 DNL range. Poloncarz said the program has been on the back-burner since 1998 to correct noise problems already plaguing the township. And if passed, the noise abatement program wouldn’t soothe residents’ fears of more aircraft flying over their homes. In Tinicum, landing gear and engine housings have fallen off aircraft and landed in the fields along Tinicum Island Road, and hatch doors have landed in the backyards of residential homes. On Feb. 8, a fiery UPS cargo plane flew over the township for an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Township officials were also concerned about the safety of 280 species of birds recorded at Tinicum’s John Heinz Wildlife Refuge, which could fall victim to planes on or at the end of runways. The FAA told the Daily Times in December that the airspace redesign would not require any construction or affect floodplains, air and water quality, wetlands or coastal resources.