News Article - September 22 2006

Editorial: Expert proves FAA redesign will never fly
  Add one more voice to those howling over the Federal Aviation Administrationís decision to redesign the flight patterns surrounding Philadelphia International Airport. But this one carries a little more clout, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it cost $50,000. Thatís how much Delaware County Council paid Williams Aviation Consultants, of Arizona, to review the FAAís plan to redesign airspace surrounding the airport. That plan would re-route air traffic, increasing the number of flights going over heavily populated areas of Delaware County. It also raised the tempers of local residents and officials, outraged that the FAA was backing a plan that would have a significant effect on the quality of life of so many good citizens of Delaware County. This week County Council unveiled the results of the Williamsí report. Guess what? They got what they paid for.

   George Williams, a former air traffic controller and himself a former FAA official, savaged the redesign plan, questioning the results the FAA based its plan on as vague, and even suggesting facts may have been manipulated to reach those conclusions. But the most damning aspect of the report is the other reason it must be taken seriously, although itís not the first time the notion has been broached. The Williams report flatly indicates the FAA plan will not do what it is intended to do, ease the crunch that is causing delays at Philly International. The consultant found at best that the plan, once implemented, could maybe reduce delays by 3.2 percent, meaning a net savings of a couple of minutes. The report goes on to claim that the majority of airport delays are not rooted in airspace redesign, but instead are caused in large part by other factors, ranging from weather to the volume of traffic. And for this they want to divert a host of jets, with the corresponding noise pollution, over densely populated areas of Delaware County. Decibel levels in some areas of the county under the new flight path could increase anywhere from 27 percent to 150 percent. Right now, many of these flights follow the Delaware River, which does much to alleviate the noise. The FAA plan would involve re-routing them over a series of Delco neighborhoods. Council President Andy Reilly was right to declare war on this redesign plan.

   "The Williams analysis makes it clear the FAA proposal is useless," Reilly said this week. He encouraged the feds to scrap the plan and come up with another one, and when they do "they should consider the impact on Delaware County residents." Problems stemming from the airport, the bulk of which actually sits in Delaware County, are nothing new. Just ask the residents of Tinicum, who have suffered with noise and structural problems to their homes, all an adjunct to the constant din of airlines taking off and landing literally in their back yards. For their part, the FAA is not saying much, other than to say that Philadelphia is not in this alone, that the plan was meant to ease problems over a five-state area, including Pennsylvania. They flatly rejected any contention that facts were "manipulated." Reilly is not the only local official hopping on board the effort to ground the FAA plan. U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-7, of Thornbury, also has been a vocal opponent, as has state Rep. Tom Gannon, R-161. Both men are facing serious challenges in the November elections. There is one item that has yet to be addressed by those vowing to clip the wings of the FAAís redesign plan.

   Planes - and their precious cargo - will continue to suffer from chronic delays getting in and out of Philadelphia International. Thatís not good for business, or for anyone else flying for that matter. Which leads us to the next question. Where do we go from here? The airport is a vital economic cog in the region. Itís broken. Now the question seems to be how to fix it. The FAA had a swing at it. And, as clearly suggested by Delaware Countyís hired gun, they missed.

   With an election a few weeks off, we havenít heard the last of this issue. We also hope we havenít heard the last of the possible solutions.

   Parting Shot

   It is said that you can learn much about a person by how they react in the worst of situations. That pretty much tells you all you would need to know about George Damon. For years as head of the local Red Cross, Damon offered comfort and solace to those facing the worst disasters life has to offer. He worked with the Delaware County Red Cross Disaster team for 35 years, and was its head for 28 years. Simply put, if you and your family found yourself in dire straits, Damon was the best friend you could have. Today we often talk about "making a difference." George Damon did that every day of his life. His legacy is one of caring and comfort offered to those often with no other place to go. We would all do well to emulate a life spent in service to others. Thanks, George. You left an indelible imprint on this county. You will be sorely missed, leaving a void we will be hard-pressed to fill.

Source - Delco Times