Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00
New flight patterns on routes on westbound flights from John F. Kennedy Airport are now in effect, but according to an engineer who tracks such flights, it is too early to tell if they will affect the noise level in North Shore communities as Roslyn, Manhasset, Port Washington, and others.
Len Schaier is a Port Washington resident and a longtime engineer who has also formed the organization, “Quiet Skies Over North Hempstead.” Through computer technology, he can track the altitude of flights taking off or landing at LaGuardia Airport. More specifically, one can google “Passur LGA,” go to the section for paths over LaGuardia Airport and determine the altitude of flights. Schaier has been involved in tracking helicopter flights, since he believes these flights might be affected most by the new flight patterns.
In fact, it was helicopter noise that got Schaier involved in this ongoing issue. Schaier said that the new flight patterns might force helicopters to fly at lower altitudes. He added that the Eastern Regional Helicopter Council has agreed that all helicopter flights stay at least 2,500 ft. in the air when flying over water areas, such as the approach to LaGuardia Airport. He added that certain variables, including flights going to the East End of Long Island, have caused helicopters to fly below that level, but as with the airplane noise, it remains too early to see what impact that will have on North Shore residents. On the latter subject, Schaier said that he recently received a phone call from a Roslyn woman upset over possible noise levels now that the new flight patterns are in effect. A short while later, that same lady called back, saying that the noise levels seemed as normal as always.
Quiet Skies Over North Hempstead has been in operation, informally, for three years. For the past one and a half years, it has been run in a more formal manner. Collecting data has been a major function. So, too, has been keeping abreast of congressional action on the new flight patterns and noise levels. Schaier said that there has been legislation introduced in Washington, including a bill that would tell the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to do a study on noise levels. However, Schaier added, such legislation is currently stalled and the FAA doesn’t want to move until any bill moves forward. At the same time, Schaier said that his own dealings with FAA officials have been positive and he believes that such administrators are receptive to the public.
In the meantime, Schaier advises residents to dial 311 if they’re bothered by any aircraft noise they haven’t heard before and to mention the time and the circumstances. In addition to helicopters, Quiet Skies will continue to monitor the sounds of regular jets, to present the facts to both the public and the FAA. “Data is king,” Schaier said.
As important, North Shore residents need to organize.
“A single data point is needed,” he said. “We need everyone pushing in the same direction.”
The new flight procedure shifts westbound John F. Kennedy Airport departure traffic to directly overfly Nassau County. Robert Belzer of the New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise (NJCAAN) claims that the new procedure sends the traffic more to the north before turning west. The new traffic, he added, avoids overflying New York City and now would overfly Westchester County, in addition to Nassau County.
In 2012, the FAA hopes to complete the major rerouting of its flights from both JFK and Farmingdale Airports. No date for its completion has been determined, but under the plan, westbound routes heading toward the Midwest and some southbound routes will be rerouted away from their current overwater patterns to ones that will take flights from the airports over neighborhoods in Suffolk County, Nassau County, New York City, and northern New Jersey.
In the spring of 2011, the FAA conducted an operation that combined air-based sectors that are now the responsibilities of the New York center. Certain offices handle air space traffic above 17,000 ft. and others handle it for traffic under that same number. The realignment of airspace management is all part of the FAA’s plan of preparing for the flight traffic patterns changes that are expected to take place in 2012.
A spokesman at the FAA’s Queens County office told Anton Newspapers last January that a noise level increase would not take place in the North Shore area, including Roslyn, Manhasset and Port Washington. The spokesman said that while designing the airspace changes, the FAA had them analyzed by noise level experts, who affirm that there will be “no new noise” for the North Shore.
In addition to JFK and Farmingdale, MacArthur Airport in Islip will also see air flight changes.
According to published reports, the new patterns have been in the works for decades, with its major goal one of reducing the airspace between New York and Philadelphia, one that is hoped also to both reduce delays and increase arrivals. In 2009, for instance, up to one-third of all flights from JFK, LaGuardia and Newark International were delayed or cancelled. FAA officials have long noted that the flight patterns coming out of those airports originated in the 1960s and as such, are incapable of dealing with present-day air traffic. The FAA, according to published reports, hopes to increase the number of planes that can take off from area airports, both large and small, by 5.4 percent. It also hopes to increase the number of arrivals by 2.9 percent.