Now may not be the best time to expand airport operations|
Listen. Now look up. It's probably not a bird and it's not Superman. Chances are it's a plane. And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering sending more our way, adding additional air flight paths through Delaware County. About two-thirds of the Philadelphia International Airport is already in Delaware County. County officials learned a few years ago about four possible plans for the airport that range from taking no action to redesigning runways and the air routes in and out of the airport. It is that last idea that airport officials and the FAA are in love with, but sends terror through the hearts of county lawmakers. Why terror? Because those new air routes will increase the decibel noise levels in some parts of the county by 900 percent. That's nine, followed by two zeros, percent. The funny thing is, the FAA never asked us Delaware Countians what we thought. And Philly officials never checked with Delaware County officials to see what they thought about the airport expansion. Airport officials and the FAA announced public hearing dates and that's when Delaware County officials and residents jumped in. The FAA says they want to expand airport operations to avoid frequent flight delays that are all too common at the airport today. Sorry, we say. Delays are a problem, but so is a daily bombardment of aircraft noise. We shouldn't have to stand for that anywhere in Delaware County and we heartily support county council's decision to oppose the runway plan. We'll even pay $50,000 in taxpayer funds for a private consultant to assess the actual damage our new airborne neighbors might cause. Perhaps in their study they may even come up with another reason for the airport's excessive flight delays. We think Congressman Curt Weldon may have put his finger on one problem. The Congressman visited the airport Monday, alarmed at the shortage of air traffic controllers. According to Weldon, the airport is operating with 79 air traffic controllers. The FAA mandates there be 106 on staff. Before talking about increasing flights and altering air routes, maybe the FAA should make sure there are enough people to do the existing job. Is now really a good time to be thinking about allowing more flights in and out of the airport? The sound generated by new flight patterns over the county will create noise pollution and lead to potential health problems. Why should Delaware Countians have to pay that price when there may be other options, like hiring more flight controllers, to explore first? There may yet be a middle path that will save our hearing and increase efficiency at the airport.