JFK Air Traffic Manager Addresses Increased Traffic Over Nassau
As the roaring sound of a jet engine soared above Village Hall in Lawrence, Nassau County residents were discussing the incessant issue of aircraft noise at a TVASNAC (Town Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee) on Sept. 27.
TVASNAC is comprised of several villages in the Town of Hempstead, including Floral Park, Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Island Park, Lawrence, Long Beach, New Hyde Park, Valley Stream and Woodburgh. Ken Lampkin, chairman of TVASNAC, led the meeting, which offers an opportunity for residents to voice their specific concerns. “Within the last few weeks in particular, I don’t know if there has been a major change in traffic patterns, but I can tell you my phone has been ringing a lot more and I know we’ve gone through some construction on a runway and it is completed,” Lampkin said.
The guest speaker of the night David Siewert, air traffic manager, JFK (John F. Kennedy) Airport Tower offered several explanations for changes in air traffic patterns. “Believe it or not, I always look forward to getting together to talk and explain things. While we certainly can’t snap fingers and make everybody happy, at least we can try to give you an understanding of some of complexities and how it affects you,” Siewart said.
During the discussion, Siewart reported that flight patterns were likely due to Bay Runway construction, an almost 3-mile long runway at JFK, which was closed from March to June. “During that period we were down to three runways, so some of our traffic patterns were not useable, in order to accommodate airlines voluntarily kept their schedules down, so there was fewer planes during that four-month period of time,” he said. Siewart maintained that once construction was finished in June, airlines were permitted to bump their schedules up resulting in changes in traffic and noise. “Some communities had more noise and more aircraft over them during that four-month period of time and others had the benefit of not being on the approach path or on the departure path on that runway,” he said.
Siewart reported that he recently did an analysis of air traffic from last year and the year before. He said that from 2007 into 2008, JFK had experienced a significant traffic growth. According to Siewart, in 2007, the FAA put in what they call restrictions were to have the airlines only schedule flights during each hour to prevent congestion and that put a cap on the number of operations at Kennedy. “Now, into this year, we’ve also been dealing with an economic situation. So, looking at the traffic this year compared to last year and last year compared to the year before, it’s actually has down a little bit.” He said last year Kennedy had 14 to 15 hundred operations per day and now are running into the 12 hundred,” he said.
Ralph Tamburro of the New York TRACON said that one of the northeast and south runways closures due to construction has also contributed air traffic increases. “We do change runways quite often right now. If I go back five or six years, we didn’t do that often,” he said.
Floral Park Trustee and TVASNAC board member Mary-Grace Tomeck asked Siewart ask how traffic controllers maintain separation for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter traffic, which she believed to be separated by approximate 500 feet. “There are a variety of ways to keep them separated and apart,” he said. He explained that air traffic controllers must be vigilant and do exchange clock positions and helicopter traffic information during those times.
A Lawrence resident asked if flights were restricted in the evening from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. “I hear a huge increase in the evenings, well it’s all day, but also nights,” the resident said. “We don’t restrict flights but we have guldelines on runway configurations. We try to pick the most noise abatement configurations,” Tamburro responded.
The next meeting of the TVASNAC Committee members will be held on Monday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. located at Lawrence Village Hall, 196 Central Ave. For more information, call 631-489-5000.