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From the Desk of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy: November 12, 2010

Falling Airline Debris

A stone’s throw away from arguably one of the best cities in the world and tremendous beaches, our district is comprised of incredible historic villages with a deep and diverse history and high quality of life. Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked ardently to help preserve this quality of life. Over the years, Long Island has evolved from rural agrarian roots to an area now home to bustling suburbs with its own unique business sectors and culture. Living in the greater New York Metropolitan Area brings great rewards as well as challenges. I have consistently heard from my constituency of concerns they have regarding their respective proximity to both JFK and LaGuardia Airports, including high levels of noise from planes landing and taking off and its effect on their quality of life. As a resident of Mineola, I know first-hand of the tremendous impact airliners flying overhead at low altitudes have on residents. As such, I have made it a priority to have the federal government address this issue.

Two distinct instances of debris from airliners falling and landing in our district indicate that more must be done to protect those in the vicinity of airports. On July 3, 2010, a metal door fell from an Alitalia Boeing 767 as it approached John F. Kennedy International Airport. The door, which detached from the plane, wound up landing near the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola. Moreover, last November, a tail cone fell from a Delta plane headed from JFK to Tokyo and landed on the front lawn of a family in Roosevelt. Thankfully, no one was injured in either of these incidents. However, both incidents are equally unacceptable.

On July 19, 2010, I led a New York Congressional delegation letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood asking the Secretary to conduct an investigation into the incidents and to outline his plans to help prevent these events from occurring again. Recently, the DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responded, explaining some steps they have been taking to prevent such instances from occurring again.

While the FAA is still investigating the Alitalia incident, several steps have been made as a result of both incidents. These steps include fleet-wide campaigns by Delta and Alitalia, respectively, to inspect aircrafts more thoroughly, carefully review of each airline’s operating manual, and increase training. The FAA has reasserted that, while it is not responsible for the pre- and post-flight inspections, it will continue to oversee and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Individuals must not be endangered because of lax oversight in one of the country’s most congested airspace corridors. Thousands of flights every day depart, arrive and fly through the tightly packed New York airspace. Please know that I will keep you abreast of developments as they come forth from the Department of Transportation, and will continue to work to ensure that Long Island remains one of the most desirable places to live in the country.”