TEB noise program begins to quiet critics

 - December 29, 2008, 7:31 AM

In honor of the second anniversary of the launch of the Teterboro Airport Working Group’s “Pledge to the Community” program–which has as its mission improving the airport’s relations with its neighbors– aviation industry representatives, New Jersey politicians and representatives of the airport’s governing agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, met to take stock of the program’s efficacy.

“Significant progress has been made since 2006 but there is still much more work to be done,” said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), one of the brokers of the agreement. His district includes the airport and surrounding neighborhoods. “Teterboro Airport has been a noisy and somewhat bothersome neighbor for decades, but it is also a neighbor that employs 1,137 people, creates 15,554 other jobs and generates $1.8 billion in annual economic activity in the region.”

In 2006 the major points of the agreement included reducing Stage 2 aircraft operations and the number of nighttime flights at the airport. Since the program went into effect, Stage 2 aircraft operations have decreased 43 percent, while the number of night flights has been reduced by 16 percent. “The significant reduction in Stage 2 and overnight operations is a testament to the aviation industry’s commitment to this critical initiative,” said NATA president James Coyne.

At this year’s annual NBAA Convention, the airport handed out its “Good Neighbor Awards” for 2006 and 2007. According to airport manager Richard Heslin, the awards honored aircraft operators– who are either based at the airport or those who made more than 100 flights in and out of Teterboro during the year–who have not violated the night curfew in effect between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., or operated Stage 2 aircraft into the airport.

While adherence to the TEB Working Group’s curfew and Stage 2 aircraft ban is called voluntary, abiding by the airport’s noise policy isn’t. Although the Airport Noise and Capacity Act passed by Congress in 1990 prohibits airports from establishing new noise or access rules–according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey–those such as Teterboro which had pre-existing restrictions were allowed to grandfather them in. The airport has restrictions on the acceptable noise levels for departures from the airport, which can vary according to the time of day, and Heslin has a serious enforcement system at his disposal to ensure that violators are quickly brought in line. “If an aircraft operator departing the airport exceeds the acceptable noise level, I send it a violation letter. If it receives three violations in a two-year period, that aircraft is banned from the airport forever,” he said.

Despite this system, some still see significant areas for improvement. “When the Working Group announced these pledges two years ago it had just over 50 percent of the operators at Teterboro voluntarily agreeing to abide by these pledges and it set a goal of having 90 percent signed up by the end of 2007. Unfortunately it has fallen well short of that goal since just over 60 percent of the operators have signed up so far,” said Rothman. Since its creation, more than 300 signatories have joined the program.

Rothman also expressed disappointment in the modest reduction in overnight flights seen at the airport. He commented, “We must work toward banning those flights completely and improving the quality of life of the residents

of the area.”