News Article - December 19, 2007

  PHILADELPHIA - The Federal Aviation Administration implemented the first stage Wednesday of a plan to redesign airspace at the Philadelphia and Newark, N.J., airports by flying new routes out of Philadelphia International Airport, the agency said. The changes still face legal challenges, with injunction requests filed on behalf of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents and additional petitions filed by cities, counties and groups appealing the FAA's decision.

   But filing for the injunctions would not prevent using the new routes, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said. "No stay has been issued, and that's what it would take," Brown told The News Journal in Wilmington, Del. Critics argue that the changes will increase noise and pollution and do nothing to relieve the Northeast's record airline delays. The FAA says the new procedures are safe and will be used during peak departure times , 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m., and when weather or other conditions cause delays. The FAA announced the new flight paths in September for the airspace in the busy Northeast corridor, which includes airports in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. The plan is being audited by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, with findings expected next summer.

   U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., and Joe Sestak, D-Pa., have said they believe the FAA is rushing a "flawed" plan into action because the agency fears a critical report from the GAO. Flights at Philadelphia International Airport were on time only 69.35 percent of the time in October, down from a 71.35 percent on-time arrival rate in October 2006. The plan starting Wednesday allows air traffic controllers to send departing planes out on two new routes, one to the south and another to the west, over New Castle County, Del. An existing westward flight path goes over northern Delaware, and a fourth southern route is to be put in place later.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer