WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA has had its problems getting reauthorization on track.
To keep the agency in business, Congress has passed yet another temporary extension, something that has been going on for more than two years. Even some Senators are getting fed up with the delay, with 35 of them signing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), urging him to move on FAA reauthorization.
Adding to these problems are the actions of a local government in New York State calling for even more delay in FAA reauthorization. On Dec. 15, the Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution urging the Congress to prevent fast tracking reauthorization as part of its fight to keep the FAA from redesigning the airspace in the New York City/Philadelphia area. The resolution received unanimous support from the legislature.
Rockland County is 12 miles north-northwest of New York City and residents complain that the proposed redesign of the airspace would increase aircraft noise from airports in the area, including LaGuardia, Newark, JFK, and Westchester. The county, along with some municipalities, is involved in litigation to prevent the airspace redesign. The suit was dismissed last June by the U.S. Court of Appeals, but in November attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Appeals Court decision.
The resolution was introduced by Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, who said the redesign plan is “fatally flawed, harmful to the public, to parkland and to the environment.” She added that before being allowed to move forward, the FAA needs to resolve present issues. “No allocations should be made toward airspace redesign while Rockland and other states and localities are in litigation to prevent the redesign,” she said.
The reauthorization bill now being held up in the Senate would authorize money for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which includes about $90 million for the airspace redesign in the New York-Philadelphia area.
The FAA has been working on the airspace redesign for more than nine years. It has conducted studies and evaluations that cover an area of approximately 31,000 miles, which includes five states and 21 airports served by airlines. The change involves combining high and low airspace to provide more efficient arrival and departure routes.
Recent actions by the Rockland County Legislature reinforce that old saying that “nobody wants an airport near them, but everybody wants to be near an airport for travel.”
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.