News Article - August 05, 2007

Airport plan set for takeoff  
  A controversial plan that aims to simplify air traffic routes in and out of Philadelphia International Airport has moved one step closer to completion with the release of an impact study detailing the effects of the project. The environmental impact statement released last week by the Federal Aviation Administration will be available for public review for the next 30 days before the administration publishes a decision on the project. The airspace redesign would send a previously unseen level of air traffic over the Gibbstown section of Greenwich Township in order to save an expected six minutes off future delays in the region. The average delay is 22 minutes.

   Without the redesign the FAA expects air traffic congestion to increase to unacceptable levels by 2011. The authority previously identified a preferred method to redesign the airspace that would use new air traffic headings and satellite technology to allow planes to fly closer together on tightly regulated flight paths. The publication of this statement is another in a long line of documents released by the FAA since the project's inception.

   "It has just moved along in the process," explained FAA Eastern Region Spokeswoman Holly Baker. "It is getting closer to the completion." Although the project would expose Greenwich Township to additional passing flights, the administration has determined that these flights will prevent no significant impact to the residents of Gibbstown.

   Using a method titled the day/night level, the administration averages the total decibel level a community would experience across an entire day. This practice has come under fire from critics to accuse the FAA presenting inaccurate numbers by averaging hours of silence with a few seconds of a thundering jet passing over head. The number can also be further reduced by limiting flights passing overhead during night time hours, when one plane counts as multiple planes.

   Public comment from numerous meetings, including one in Cherry Hill and another in Essington, Pa., have been addressed in the drafting of this document, explained Baker. "It includes more strategies to address noise impacts and responds to public comments," she said. "We will continue to work closely with those affected." As the FAA nears a decision on this project, vocal critic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-Haddon Heights, is awaiting a report from the Government Accountability Office who on his urging is investigating the FAA's methods.

   Andrews disagrees with the FAA's math, explaining that their own documents show only a 30 second decrease in future delays. He also contends that no one is sure of how much this redesign will cost. The findings of the GAO reports are currently unknown, but Andrews assures that the report will be released in time to shut down the FAA's redesign project.

Source - NJ.COM