Port Authority committee seeks agreement on Teterboro issues

 - September 25, 2006, 8:30 AM

Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates Teterboro Airport (TEB), stirred up a hornet’s nest when he proposed changes at TEB to mollify those residents who oppose the airport’s existence. Coscia’s proposals included a 50-percent increase in landing fees for aircraft weighing more than 6,000 pounds, a 10-percent reduction in traffic, a 50- to 60-percent reduction in nighttime operations, a Stage 2 ban and a weight limit of 80,000 pounds–down from the current 100,000 pounds–for all aircraft using the airport.

On December 21, the Port Authority held an unannounced and unpublicized invitation-only meeting to form a group to seek solutions to the issues between airport operators and the community. Representatives of AOPA, NBAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) were there, as were representatives of all five of the airport’s FBOs. Also attending were Falcon Jet and AIG, which have major facilities at the airport.

Coscia did not attend. The Port Authority was represented by William DeCota, the agency’s director of aviation; Sue Baer, general manager of the Port Authority’s New Jersey Airports, Newark Liberty International and Teterboro; and Lanny Rider, manager of Teterboro Airport.

At the December 21 meeting, NATA president Jim Coyne and Atlantic Aviation TEB general manager Joe Fazio were appointed co-chairs of a working committee designed to address the issues that concern the airport, its users and operators and the residents of the surrounding communities.

Rider set the tone of the meeting when he said, “We want to develop creative and jointly acceptable solutions to the issues that have surrounded airport operations. We’re concerned with the regional benefits the airport provides, and we’re concerned with the welfare of our neighbors. We want to work on these issues together.”

Community Education

In an interview after the meeting, Coyne said, “Our problem is perception. The airport and its operators make a tremendous contribution to the area. The airport brings in millions in revenue to the area and creates thousands of jobs for people living within a relatively short distance of the airport. We want to show the public who we are. We hope that with the unity of the operators we can develop a partnership with the community and the Port Authority.

“We are going to request a meeting with Anthony Coscia. Hopefully, we can build a positive relationship. We have to let people know that we have a community of operators that provide a tremendous benefit to the community and are concerned with being good neighbors and we are concerned with safety.

“Teterboro Airport is a world-class facility and people in the area should be proud to have such a facility in their midst, especially since that world-class facility is in the most important area of the nation.

“At our next meeting we will have an agenda for working with the Port Authority and with local leaders. We’re going to be positive and constructive.”

After the meeting Fazio reiterated the need for education: “Teterboro is a friendly place and it is a safe place. We need to do a quality job of education. For example, the perception is that the bigger the airplane is, the more noise it makes. That is not true.”

Statistics prove that airliners in service today that can carry more than 300 passengers are far quieter than the first Learjets, which could carry a maximum of nine people, including the crew. Also, not all the noise residents hear is coming from aircraft using Teterboro. Some of the aircraft they hear are flying in or out of other airports in the area.

“Our objective is to keep an open mind and to approach community concerns in a professional manner,” Fazio said. “We have an opportunity that can benefit both the airport and the community at large through open dialogue.”

Addressing Noise Complaints

The issue of noise will no doubt top the agenda for the new committee, which does not yet have a name.

The residents have brought the airport issue to a head, with encouragement from Representative Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), who has demanded a 25-percent reduction in traffic at TEB.

Airport users suggest that many complaints are invalid or highly exaggerated. One former corporate pilot who flew for years out of Teterboro told AIN, “There was a time when over a period of several days there were numerous complaints about aircraft noise at Teterboro. The complaints came at a time when the airport had been closed for three days for runway repairs.”

Residents have also made numerous complaints about low-flying aircraft. Usually, the complainant stated the time of the incident as 2 a.m. or 3 a.m, but when the airport management checked the records it discovered that in a majority of cases no aircraft came in at the time stated. The Port Authority installed a noise-monitoring system that would record every aircraft’s flight path, time of arrival and the decibels it produced. The system cost more than $400,000, most of which was picked up by the Port Authority. After the installation, those noise complaints dropped off dramatically.

On another occasion there was a spike in the number of complaints from a specific area. There were normally a handful of complaints monthly from that area, and one month there were suddenly more than 100. When the airport authority looked into the complaints, it found that all but a handful came from the same person.

On the other side of the argument are the users of Teterboro Airport, many of whom are the nation’s top executives. They use Teterboro because it is the most convenient to the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, the hub of the world’s commerce and trade.

The mission the new Teterboro committee undertakes is not a simple one. But the committee is dedicated to finding a solution.