FAA says it should have notified residents of increased plane noise

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Borough leaders lambasted the FAA after the agency concluded trial period testing a new departure procedure without proper community notice.File photo
Borough leaders lambasted the FAA after the agency concluded trial period testing a new departure procedure without proper community notice.

Borough leaders lambasted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after they said a concluded trial period testing a new departure procedure at LaGuardia Airport took off and landed without proper community notice.

“This is the borough board … This is where you start. You don’t end up here. I don’t think you’re in touch,” said Borough President Helen Marshall to invited government air traffic control representatives at a September 10 board meeting. “I don’t understand why you didn’t let us know about this a long time ago.”

Residents from Bayside and downtown Flushing say they had been tormented since mid-June by the ear-splitting roar of low-flying airplanes they say soared past their homes by the minute each day from 6 a.m. to noon and then again from 6 p.m. to midnight.

They joined a borough-wide chorus of homeowners, some in Briarwood and Woodside, who say they were also blighted by the thundering turbulence.

“This seems like something very unfair to do to this borough,” Marshall said. “We have to consider the people.”

FAA officials said the agency has finished with a six-month trial — called the “Tennis Climb” — to test a departure procedure at LaGuardia Airport, in which departing traffic turns left to the north off Runway 13.

The Tennis Climb trial — which began February 13 and came to a close August 13 — was to ensure the required separation between John F. Kennedy International Airport arrivals and LaGuardia Runway 13 departures while using a new, precise navigation system called “RNAV,” said Ralph Tamburro, the agency’s New York traffic management officer.

The separation, Tamburro said, was successfully ensured during the trial run, but the project is now currently being analyzed by the FAA’s environmental office. The FAA said they would take in public comment before making the new route permanent.

While Tamburro touted the agency’s findings during the six-month test period, which included avoiding about 2,635 aircraft delays at JFK, borough board members accused the FAA of using the Queens communities as “guinea pigs.”

“We are very sensitive in this borough,” said Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton. “In our homes and on our streets, we know where there are changes made. Notifying us of a test allows us to notify the people.”

Councilmember Daniel Dromm chastised the agency for its after-the-fact reporting to the board.

“You’re telling us now that this has already been happening — for what purpose?” he asked.

According to Tamburro, additional environmental studies for the pilot program were not required because it was modeled after an existing and increasingly outdated procedure called the “Flushing Climb,” which is utilized during the U.S. Open but does not involve the use of RNAV systems.

“We probably should have done a better job in notifying people even though there was no requirement to do so,” said Jeffrey Clarke, the FAA’s New York district office manager. “So I consider that a lesson learned as we go forth from here.”

Clarke also said the agency is in the process of making the transition to a new era of flight called “NextGen,” which upgrades airports to satellite-based technology that lets pilots know the precise locations of other airplanes around them.