News Article - September 05, 2007

  WASHINGTON — Air traveler delays would be reduced by 20 percent in four years - by 2011 - from what they otherwise might be in the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia air corridor under an overhaul of air traffic routes that has received final environmental approval. The Wednesday announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration allows the agency to begin eliminating complex crossing patterns for arrivals and departures at geographically close airports and replace them with more air lanes covering a bigger geographic area where planes can fly at three-mile intervals instead of five miles apart.

   “The bottom line is the air traffic system today is somewhat antiquated in the Northeast,” Steve Kelley, manager of the FAA’s redesign project, told reporters. ”We need to do the job better.” Five of the nation’s busiest airports are in the region and many U.S. air travelers make connections at John F. Kennedy International and Newark International for flights overseas.

   The first changes are expected in 30 to 60 days. For example, planes departing from Philadelphia International Airport will use a fan pattern to disperse after take off instead of the current follow-the-leader system, which is slower. For residents on the ground, the plan means an estimated 619,000 people in a five-state area stretching from southern Connecticut to northern Delaware eventually will experience less significant noise, according to the FAA.

   But the overhaul of the takeoff and landing patterns has generated strong complaints and the threat of lawsuits from some communities that will instead have an increase in noise. Parts of southern Rockland County have 300 to 400 commercial jets flying overhead at 6,000 to 9,000 feet about half the days of the year. FAA officials said Wednesday the new flight pattern for Newark International Airport is expected to begin in a year or two.

   One key to the noise reduction is that aircraft will stay at higher altitudes longer during their approaches to the region’s airports, which also will save on fuel. The FAA estimates airlines will save $248 million in operational costs annually, including 23 million gallons a year less in aviation fuel.

Source - Poughkeepsie Journal