To the Editor:
In aviation, winds traditionally dictate flight directions. Not anymore. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey have arbitrarily changed aviation policy at JFK. As a result, the two shortest runways (22L and 22R) bear a large majority of arrivals and departures. Infuriatingly, this policy was instituted without public notice and review; furthermore, it violated established flight protocols and standard operating procedures.
That’s nothing new. The FAA has an authoritarian nature. It, along with its local partner, the Port Authority, function as if they are in a vacuum. Truth be told, the FAA exists solely to serve the aviation industry. And it has little or no concern for residents living under commercial flight paths.
The changes in aviation policy, the public is told, will enhance aviation “efficiency.” Efficiency means the FAA can compact more flights in and out of an airport. That is accomplished by decreasing the spacing between flights and utilizing parallel runways simultaneously. The ultimate goal is to accommodate more passengers. This is achieved through a “technological modernization effort to increase airspace capacity” called Next Gen. Theoretically, passengers would save time and money, commercial airlines would save millions in fuel costs, profits would soar and society would benefit.
People living near flight paths would not see any benefits. Rather, NextGen would increase the volume of planes, noise and pollution. Many would also experience a decline in quality of life and home values.
The efficiency mantra, however, does not hold up to scrutiny. Efficiency is not served when the FAA continues to expand the period of flight operations past 21 hours a day. Nor when the FAA ignores safety issues by allowing jumbo jets to land and take off on short runways; or when a growing number of pilots refuse to use runways 22L or 22R, especially during bad weather, because these are much shorter than runways 13 and 31. There were also several recent instances of wind shear conditions overlooked by air controllers. Also recently, there was a near collision of a small private plane with a commercial aircraft headed for JFK via runway 22L. It should be clear to all: with increased and compacted aircraft volume, there is increased risk.
That increased risk is focused mostly on the residents who live in densely populated suburban areas and who endure the bulk of flights utilizing runways 22L and 22R. Communities such as Rosedale and Springfield Gardens, along with Valley Stream and Elmont, bear the brunt of the increased volume of noise and harmful pollution; but other communities such as Lynbrook, Malverne, and Rockville Centre endure the noise and pollution of swiftly climbing planes. And communities as far flung as the Massapequas, New Hyde Park and East Williston are also affected. Obviously, this is not a localized problem. It is one that affects much of Nassau County.
But not all of Nassau County is victimized by FAA policy. Communities to the east of runways 13 and 31 have a favored status. They do not experience the same level of abuse. They have much less plane traffic and their east-west runways have been greatly under-utilized the last several years, despite $363 million spent by the FAA a few years ago to extend and widen these runways to accommodate the next generation of jumbo jets.
The FAA is fully aware of the safety concerns of utilizing the 22s. It plans to extend runway 22R. How many millions will be spent on this extension? And the extended runway will still be shorter than the 13/31 runways. Taxpayers and politicians should be outraged by this wasteful spending and should question whether this “efficiency” scheme of the FAA and Port Authority is realistic, safe or even necessary.
The FAA plan to extend runway 22R is so worrisome that many local residents are demanding a comprehensive environmental study. They also fear the FAA plan to cut down several hundred mature trees that will dramatically alter a local park to accommodate dangerously lower flight paths for arrivals approaching JFK’s runway 22L. Simply said, there is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.
If you are concerned with the FAA’s dubious policy and plans, please call your congressional and local representatives. If plane noise and pollution affects your daily life, please contact the Port Authority at (800) 225-1071 or visit www.panynj.gov/contact/contact-us-html and register your complaint or concerns.
Dr. John H. Humins
Member, the Nassau Coalition for Quieter Skies