Proposed flight-pattern changes irk some area residents

FAA to hold Tuesday meeting in Plainsboro

By: Jake Uitti
   The Federal Aviation Administration has scheduled a meeting in Plainsboro on Tuesday to discuss proposed changes in flight patterns in the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas — changes that have some residents up in arms.
   "In their last meeting in 2001, (the FAA) changed flight patterns because they said it would be easier for air traffic control towers," Montgomery resident Nancy DeFazio said. "So they flipped the way traffic was going. The change put more air traffic over the Montgomery and Princeton areas instead of closer to the airports.
   "In fact," she said, "the term ‘flip’ isn’t totally accurate since there wasn’t any commercial jet traffic over Montgomery before.
   "Now," she continued, "they are trying to stack the planes closer together, without giving any notice of the meetings because they don’t want anyone making a big stink about it. As I see it, they put a highway over Montgomery and now they want to widen it. We need people to speak up. The FAA isn’t advertising the meetings.
   "They want to slide any decision through with as little resistance as possible," Ms. Defazio said. "I felt incredibly deceived four years ago."
   On Dec. 17, 2001, the FAA announced plans to swap arrival routes for Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports. The route changes, which took effect Dec. 29, 2001, were intended to increase the number of on-time flights at Newark and LaGuardia airports and expand both airports’ flight capacity by relieving a midair bottleneck that resulted from a crossover of the old approaches, directing planes over some areas that had not been in flight paths before.
   U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-7), who represents Montgomery, said at the time the shift was unacceptable and maintained the FAA failed to consult his office or area residents. Rep. Ferguson’s press secretary issued a statement Thursday stating the congressman would continue to fight plans that would increase air noise.
   The Plainsboro meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village hotel, is intended to invite comments on four potential plans to "improve safety, reduce delays and handle growing air traffic in most of the nation’s northeastern airspace," a press release from the FAA said.
   The airspace redesign involves a 31,000-square-mile, five-state area with a population of 29 million residents. The four redesign alternatives under consideration are "No Action," "Modifications to Existing Airspace," "Ocean Routing Airspace" and "Integrated Airspace Alternative."
   The modifications plan would create new departure headings for LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and Philadelphia airports by splitting a major westbound airway into two independent airways.
   The ocean-routing plan would move all departing flights from Newark Liberty over the Atlantic Ocean before turning back over land.
   And the integrated-airspace plan would make additional airspace available to enable air traffic controllers to expedite the flow of traffic in and out of the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas more efficiently and safely, according to an FAA news release.
   The FAA will address these strategies at upcoming hearings.