Friday, December 1, 2017

Pilots expected to get option to steer clear of high-rises on approach to Teterboro Airport (KTEB)

TETERBORO — A flight path to Teterboro Airport that could divert planes away from high-rise buildings and one of the largest hospitals in the country, was recommended to the FAA by a noise abatement committee, and seems more likely to be used by pilots than earlier alternatives. 

The proposed flight path, called the RNAV(GPS) option, would offset incoming flights west of the current approach, so pilots could fly over Maywood and Rochelle Park as they land. 

The Teterboro Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, a group of airport and town officials that oversee noise abatement and recommend action to the FAA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, voted unanimously to direct Renee Spann, the airport manager, to send a letter to the FAA requesting they move forward with the runway approach. The flight path would divert planes away from the Hackensack University Medical Center and high-rise apartment buildings along the Prospect Avenue corridor in Hackensack.

“Now what we OK'd the other night was that they go ahead with the testing of the procedure,” said Fred Dressel, the co-chairman of the committee. “That doesn’t mean we OK'd the procedure. Other than that they start their investigation into the potential of making changes.”

Upon receipt of the letter, the FAA will take between 16 to 18 months to add the procedure to Teterboro Airport, said FAA spokesman Jim Peters. If the letter is received within the next few weeks, the airport could have the flight path as early as spring 2019.

The letter from the committee is arguably the first tangible step in more than a year of discussion about the path planes take to land at Runway 19 at Teterboro. In their final approach, planes fly low over densely populated areas. Many of the residents of these buildings, most often represented as members of the Hackensack Condo & Co-op Advisory Board, have been at several committee meetings to protest the flight path.

The flight path would not replace the current approach. Instead, it would be an option that pilots could use on clear days, and when visibility is not a factor. Pilots would still have the option of using the current approach, called the instrument landing system, at any time.

Spann, who is also the co-leader of the committee, declined to comment, referring questions to the Port Authority. The Port Authority referred questions to Dressel. As of Friday, the letter had not yet been sent.

In response to resident concerns, last year the FAA implemented a six-month test of a new flight path that would take planes along the Route 17 corridor. The test flight path, dubbed the "quiet visual approach," required pilots to use visual checkpoints such as Westfield Garden State Plaza and the Sports Dome Complex in Waldwick to land planes on the runway.

The path was barely used by pilots, who preferred to use instruments to land their planes rather than the visual cues, said FAA officials. The test flight path was abandoned and residents were angered at the lack of data and the FAA's inability to compel pilots to use the path.

Based on discussions the FAA had with pilots, the latest option seemed more likely to be accepted by pilots, said Dressel. This time around, the FAA is looking to make the RNAV (GPS) option a permanent procedure, said Maria Aviles, program integration officer for the FAA, at a previous noise abatement committee meeting.

"At least it’ll get a good shake," said Dressel. 

The approval for the flight path to begin was terrific, but a hard-fought win, said Connie Bovino, president of the Hackensack Condo & Co-op Advisory Board.

"Well, our group has been fighting it for a year. Prior to that, I don’t think anyone started fighting it for a long time," said Bovino. "I know 10 years ago they were fighting it and got nowhere. This time at least the FAA listened to us, but they had two plane crashes before that." 

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