FAA Airspace Redesign Won’t Affect Village
A federal appeals court ruled last month that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can continue moving ahead with its planned New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign despite legal challenges filed by towns and counties in the metro area.
The lawsuits alleged the FAA did not properly perform an environmental impact study of the changes in air traffic patterns made as part of the redesign.
The redesign project is aimed at making air travel more “efficient,” specifically reducing delays, aircraft noise, airplane emissions and fuel consumption.
The FAA, along with NY TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), has proposed modifying the design of existing Class B airspace in the New York metropolitan area.
Class B airspace, explains Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki, Floral Park’s noise abatement officer, is best understood as the section of congested airspace that is under the direct control and supervision of air traffic controllers who are responsible for maintaining a safe distance between planes.
Specifically, the design change would expand the current 20 nautical mile ring of Class B airspace around LaGuardia Airport out to a range of 25 nautical miles – with an additional 30 nautical mile section in the northwest quadrant of Class B. The redesign also wants to lower the current floor of the Class B from 3,000 feet Mean Sea Level to 2,500 feet Mean Sea Level and in certain sections of airspace down to 2,000 feet Mean Sea level. Also known as “controlled space,” Class B varies in design and dimension based on the needs of individual airports.
According to an internal report submitted by a noise subcommittee of the New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise (NJCAAN), NY TRACON, which serves as home to air traffic controllers, submitted a proposal in September 2008 to expand the size, while lowering the floor of Class B airspace for certain airports in the region.
The noise subcommittee report states: “the noise impacts caused by aircraft and air traffic continues to be a very contentious issue in many communities around our airports and still presents a serious impediment to those airports and the aviation industry when these noise concerns are not addressed.”
The report continues: “The NY TRACON’s design change as proposed to the current Class B airspace configuration may very well undo much of the good work done over the years by airport/noise management staff, pilots and flight crews, the general aviation community and even the FAA!”
Trustee Tomecki said that while the proposal is only in the stages of discussion, the changes are being contemplated as part of an effort to address internal FAA safety audit violations regarding protocols for communicating with commercial aircraft
Airports under consideration are Farmingdale, Linden, Teterboro, Caldwell and Morristown Municipal Airport.
Helicopters generally prefer to fly underneath Class B airspace. By expanding the size of Class B and lowering its floor, helicopter pilots could find the airspace available to them outside of Class B reduced, which in theory, Trustee Tomecki, liaison to Floral Park’s Noise Abatement Committee said, would force them to fly at lower altitudes.
For years, Floral Park and its surrounding communities have been fighting for a more equitable share of aircraft noise, including noise created by helicopters.
In December 2007 Senator Charles Schumer brokered a deal that required low-flying helicopters to re-route over water during frequent trips out east instead of hovering over local communities like Floral Park.
The agreement – between the FAA, major Long Island airports like East Hampton and Gabreski airports, and the helicopter companies represented by the Eastern Region Helicopter Council – includes new noise abatement routes to divert pre-existing North Shore traffic over water at a recommended altitude of at least 2,500 feet.
Once the new routes and altitude floors were established and went into effect in May 2008, the senator funded the creation of a 3-1-1 call center so fed up residents could report non-compliant aircraft.
One could surmise though that reducing helicopter altitudes could cause greater disturbances to residential communities below their paths.
Trustee Tomecki, who also serves as Floral Park’s representative to TVASNAC (Town-Village Aircraft Safety Noise Abatement Committee), assures Floral Park can breathe a sigh of relief.
“Nonetheless, in this instance, if the proposal was approved and implemented in its present form by the FAA, the Village of Floral Park and its neighboring communities that are currently impacted by air traffic into and out of Kennedy International Airport, as well as helicopter activity along the Track Route, can breathe a sigh of relief, for they will not be affected by the proposed design change,” Trustee Tomecki is happy to report.
Trustee Tomecki continued, “Floral Park and communities situated as far north as Lake Success are already located under Kennedy’s Class B airspace, which encompasses eight nautical miles from JFK Airport and includes the airspace captured between a ceiling of 7,000 feet to the ground. There are currently no plans to alter the Class B airspace that serves Kennedy, and consequently, no proposed changes to the altitudes of incoming planes or even helicopters that rely on the Track Route, but are already forced to fly in Class B given its dimensions.”
To file a complaint against non-compliant aircraft, residents are encouraged to call any of the following numbers: TVASNAC (Town & Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee), 371-2330; the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council, (888) 374-2463; Port Authority Noise Complaints, 747-1417; Village of Floral Park, 326-6300.