Area Officials, Residents Want More Changes
Corroborating the adage
that you can't make everyone happy all of the time, the FAA's newly
revised proposed changes to its plan to reroute traffic leaving PHL
to reduce aircraft noise on the ground has once again been met with
The FAA modified the headings of flights departing PHL over
South Jersey based on objections from residents and officials, said
FAA spokesman Jim Peters.
"We dropped one heading that would have sent aircraft over
Gloucester and Salem counties. Now, the new track will shift over
Camden County creating new impacts, but they are slight to
moderate. Based on our modeling, we see no significant noise
increase," he said.
The report, released Friday, included the FAA saying there would
be only a small loss of "operational efficiency" to the air traffic
system, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Operational efficiency refers to the agency's goal of reducing
delays for airliners and other planes that now follow more
circuitous, time-consuming paths in the sky before reaching
cruising altitude. PHL and airports in the New York area have some
of the worst records for on-time flights, and one reason is the
inefficiency of the current air-traffic routing system, according
to the FAA.
The FAA began working on changing the airspace over the
Northeast nine years ago. It held a series of public meetings last
The new plan calls for directing pilots to use only three
departure paths, as opposed to the six departure paths proposed by
the FAA twp weeks ago for planes taking off to the west, which
would have impacted a larger geographic area.
Two Delaware County officials were quick to call the revisions
inadequate and unacceptable.
"What Delaware County wants is for the planes to fly over the
river until they reach a 3,000-foot altitude, and, at that point,
make their turns over the county, or (New) Jersey, or wherever they
are heading," said Andrew J. Reilly, chairman of the Delaware
"Our experts contend that, by flying planes over Delaware County
immediately after takeoff, all you're doing is putting more
off-ramps onto the overcrowded highway in the sky," he added.
The new FAA report includes a consultant's report that
determined air traffic departing PHL at night was light enough that
planes could continue to fly down the Delaware River as they do
now, reaching 3,000 feet before they turn over residential
"Reducing the number of available departure headings at PHL from
six headings to three headings would allow for some relief of the
expected noise impacts while minimizing the loss of operational
efficiency," the report said.
Although Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) praised the
departure-headings change, he declared that the report fell
"There's been some progress, but it's inadequate," he said.
Sestak, who has a meeting with
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey April 20, noted the FAA's
environmental-impact statement did not account for the effect noise
has on people's health, education and safety, the environment, and
"Statistical studies have shown that this level of noise impacts
people's health, education, their safety and the environment," he
said. "None of this is accounted for in the process."
Sestak said he would support taking the FAA to court to delay
the flight-path changes, but recognizes that "the FAA has won 12 of
the 13 times that they have been sued."
Meanwhile, according to Reilly, the report did not fully address
three key areas: not accurately accounting for the causes of delays
at PHL; not including all aerial traffic in the FAA's model; and
excluding 80 percent of the area's airports.
"While the FAA is boasting that their mitigation report
mitigates the additional noise caused by their plan, they shouldn't
even implement the plan, because there is no significant
operational benefits from it," he said. "We should be talking about
eliminating the noise, not mitigating it."
Nina Walls, a retired teacher from Ridley Park, PA, said the
benefits of the new flight patterns aren't worth the impact on the
quality of life, referring to increased noise and pollution and the
safety threat posed by planes flying over schools and homes.
"Most people I've talked to in Ridley Park are dead-set against
anything except keeping them over the river," she said.
Walls, like several of the area's politicians, wants the FAA to
consider offloading some of the burden on airports in Atlantic
City, Allentown, and elsewhere in the region.
"From our point of view," she said, "it doesn't seem like there
is enough benefit to be doing what they're doing."
The FAA's airspace-redesign plan has been endorsed, however, by
the CEO Council for Growth, a component of the Greater Philadelphia
Chamber of Commerce, as a way to improve the regional economy by
reducing airline delays.
The FAA will hold five public hearings on the noise-reduction
study, one each in the states affected.
If the FAA's decision is allowed to stand, new flight paths
could begin this summer.