Guest Opinion

The FAA: a rogue operation?


The Federal Aviation Administration is up to its dirty tricks again. It is desperately trying to end the environmental impact study (EIS) being sought by citizens and civic organizations in the greater New York area, and nationally.

EIS reviews make it more difficult for the FAA to have its way in expanding flight operations. These reviews are time-consuming and expensive for the FAA, which has grown used to having its own way. Increasingly, however, citizens are concerned about its policies and imperious attitude.

The FAA has constantly ignored the impact of plane noise and pollution on area residents. That’s nothing new. What is new is the magnitude of its assault on communities throughout the greater New York metropolitan area, and around the nation. The FAA has disregarded and violated established flight protocols and standard operating procedures, and has done so without public notice and review. For instance, FAA flight operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport are 24 hours a day when you include freight operations. This abuse raises the questions: When do people sleep comfortably? Can children study at home? Will residents be able to enjoy a barbecue or open their windows for fresh air when flights scream overhead?

The FAA’s arrogance is a hindrance to communicating with citizens concerned about the negative impact of its policies on their lives. Most people don’t realize that the FAA exists solely to serve the interests of the airline industry. The FAA does not want to hear that people are suffering as a result of its policies. For instance, the FAA displays daily its complete disregard for the dangers of aviation pollution. Yet there is mounting evidence that pollution spewed by planes is a cause of autism. Simply put, airplane emissions are extremely toxic. That is a major reason why the FAA should direct out-to-sea as many flights as possible out to sea. This won’t happen because the FAA doesn’t care. All it cares about is facilitating the increase in the volume of air travelers and thereby increasing the airline industry’s profits.

When FAA representatives do meet with members of the public, who express great concerns about the increasing volume of planes flying overhead, they simply respond, “We’ll look into that.” And then they carry on with business as usual. Such arrogance is galling.

Concerned citizens are fed up with the FAA’s stalling tactics and lies. Deception is not good public relations. Then again, authoritarian institutions don’t worry about public relations.

The time has come for the FAA to pay attention to the growing uproar of citizens in the greater New York metropolitan area. Many politicians have joined the effort to address the people’s concerns and are actively trying to get the FAA to become a responsible and responsive neighbor. Citizens have formed groups to fight noise and pollution from the increasing number of flights. They understand that plane noise and pollution are dangerous to their family’s health, their quality of life and their home’s value. They have demanded EIS reviews of the planes’ horrific noise and the sickening pollution to their communities and environment.

The FAA has responded by seeking exemptions from any environmental review. Specifically, it does not want to be held accountable for commercial aircraft noise and pollution. And when the NextGen “efficiency” policy is fully in place, the FAA will concentrate plane traffic in a very narrow path in and out of JFK. Residents living under that pathway will experience more intense and persistent noise and declining air quality and health.

The narrowing of affected pathways, we are told, serves to accommodate the Global Positioning System located high above earth to monitor and control flight operations around the nation. JFK and LaGuardia airports will soon have this system activated, and it will reportedly be a boon for the aviation industry, while assuredly it will be a bane for those living under the tightly constricted flight path. The assertion that the GPS system can only accommodate a narrow flight path seems absurd.

A narrowed flight path will direct the noise and pollution over a much smaller area, thereby greatly favoring some communities. Simultaneously, this new policy will make the lives of people in those communities affected by the tighter flight path and increased air traffic increasingly miserable.

I must ask a few pertinent questions: Are we living in Russia? It sure seems that way. Is the formulation of this new FAA policy the brainchild of a sadist? Or is it group-think gone mad? And is it sane policy to insulate some people from noise and pollution while subjecting others to the madness of an authoritarian entity which is oblivious to serving the general public in a humane and fair manner?

One last question: Is the narrow flight path policy, which will concentrate the vast majority of flights onto shorter runways, a national FAA policy, or is it a local decision? Curiously, several high-ranking FAA officials live east of JFK and are beneficiaries of a policy that favors their communities to the detriment of minority and integrated neighborhoods to the northeast of JFK. This raises the possibility of a conflict of interest.

What is needed is a fair and balanced distribution of flights in and out of JFK and LaGuardia based on established flight protocols and standard operating procedures. Where feasible, most flights should be directed over the Atlantic Ocean. That was the goal when the FAA spent $363M a few years ago to lengthen and widen two runways at JFK. But favoritism and politics got in the way and scuttled that common-sense policy.

Dr. John H. Humins is a member of Nassau Coalition for Quieter Skies.