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Boro pols slam FAA for noisy flight testing

Queens officials are concerned after the FAA failed to notify them about a six-month test of flight paths at LaGuardia Airport.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens officials gave the Federal Aviation Administration an earful Monday night after the agency failed to inform the borough about a change in flight patterns, which have generated a litany of noise complaints from Bayside and Whitestone.

“I am very concerned about how this came about without any notice at all to the affected communities or their representatives, and how these changes might affect our quality of life in the long term,” Borough President Helen Marshall said at the outset of a meeting in Borough Hall, at 120-55 Queens Blvd.

The FAA had been testing out a new satellite navigation system on a departure path that runs over the neighborhoods of Whitestone and Bayside, according to administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac, who attended Monday’s meeting. The system allows planes to adhere more tightly to the prescribed path, whereas before the pilot had more leeway. If the path was like a multi-lane highway, by using the satellite navigation system, it is more like a single-lane road.

The path, called the Tnnis (pronounced “tennis”) Climb, is one of several departure paths that planes use to ascend into the air over Queens. Others, like the Flushing Climb, are used depending on the wind conditions.

Certain residents might have noticed increased noise because the path was being used more often during the six-month test that ran from February to August. In addition, that path was more tightly adhered to, meaning the planes repeatedly flew over the exact locations instead of over a wider area, Salac said.

Either way, officials were not happy the borough was kept in the dark.

“In the future, the FAA and the Port Authority must reach out and inform the surrounding communities of these changes,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who attended the meeting.

The FAA said that after an environmental analysis, the agency foresaw no adverse effects from the test and did not anticipate complaints from the community, which is why no one was informed, Salac said.

But another vocal critic of the flight pattern shake-up, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), questioned how that decision was made.

“Who makes that decision? Is it done by an independent consultant or the FAA,” Avella asked. “It is easy for them to come to that conclusion so they never have to tell the public.”

The senator first received word of the flight pattern test in June after relaying complaints to the FAA. Avella questioned the motivation for instituting the new navigation system, saying he believes the FAA is trying to further increase capacity by more tightly regulating how much space planes can use on takeoff and landing.

The FAA has committed to sharing the results of the test at a yet unscheduled meeting with Marshall and has pledged to be more communicative in the future.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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