Proposed FAA policy appears to support BBJs

 - August 6, 2008, 6:38 AM

A story in The Bergen Record, a Northern New Jersey newspaper, opened a floodgate of protests from residents of communities surrounding Teterboro Airport. It reported that the FAA had posted a notice in the Federal Register to the effect that it was calling into question the action of some airports banning aircraft above certain weights from landing at their facilities.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Teterboro, has had a ban on aircraft weighing more than 100,000 pounds for the past 36 years.

The FAA notice questioned if this practice is unjustly discriminatory, and the agency also pointed out that weight restrictions should not be a substitute for noise restrictions.

Airports accepting federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds are obligated to conform to FAA requirements that, among other things, forbid discrimination against certain aircraft. Teterboro last accepted an FAA grant this past May in the amount of $4.8 million as part of an ongoing school soundproofing program. This grant was for work on two area schools.

The Federal Register notice published July 1 solicited comments to be submitted within 45 days. Almost immediately there were 132 responses. All but two were from residents opposed to the lifting of the 100,000-pound ban.

Many of the letters charged that the FAA was catering to rich corporations and individuals while ignoring the quality-of-life issues that affect the residents of towns surrounding the airport.

“Allowing larger aircraft to use Teterboro will benefit only a privileged few corporations at the expense of the residents,” one respondent wrote. “I can live without the goods and services these corporations offer, and so can Bergen County,” wrote another.

Boeing as scapegoat

Many of the letter writers apparently were under the impression that Boeing put out the notice in the Federal Register. Although the weight ban applies to any aircraft over 100,000 pounds, Boeing has become the scapegoat in this dispute because the weight limit bars its Boeing Business Jet, a modified 737, from using Teterboro.

Several letters said these aircraft should use the nearby commercial airports–Kennedy, La Guardia or Newark. Teterboro, however, is a reliever designed to divert business aircraft from these busy commercial airports.

One person wrote, “If this aircraft [the BBJ] is quieter and less polluting then the current aircraft allowed [to use the airport], I would have no objection to allowing this aircraft provided that the noisier and more polluting aircraft be banned from Teterboro.”

“They fly so low we can actually see the pilot’s faces,” wrote one resident. “Many pilots fly their jet aircraft carelessly over our neighborhood.” “I’m tired of pilots waving to me as they fly past my house,” wrote another.

“It is wrong,” said one letter, “to expand access to an airport that developed long after the communities were well established and populated.” Actually, Teterboro Airport was established in 1917 on marshy swampland. There were a number of farms in the area at the time but few residences.

Several residents expressed concern over the danger of crashes and the increased risk of a crash involving a larger aircraft. “Teterboro has escaped without any large crashes in the past,” read one letter. “How long is our luck going to last?”

A couple of those who responded to the Federal Register notice called for the closing of Teterboro.

One of those who wrote in support of the airport said, “I live in a high rise in Hackensack near Teterboro Airport. The airplanes are quiet compared with trains, fire trucks, police sirens and alarms that go off all the time. The larger new airplanes make little noise, and if you want to sit on my balcony and see for yourself you’re welcome.”

A 16-year-old girl expressed disgust “that the country that I have grown up to esteem to the greatest degree could be so undemocratic.”

The Port Authority is unalterably opposed to any change in its 100,000-pound rule, and its board of commissioners passed a resolution to explore every way possible to stop the FAA.

PA chairman Anthony Coscia said, “We vehemently oppose the FAA’s suggested change in policy regarding airplanes over 100,000 pounds at Teterboro Airport.” He pledged to work with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and other community residents “who share the concerns about the negative effect this policy would have.”

Sports teams that appear at Giants Stadium or the Continental Arena routinely travel aboard 737s and DC-9s that fly in and out of Teterboro Airport, but the Port Authority said they submit manifests showing that they are not over the 100,000-pound limit.