BP Shulman acknowledged that the additional business opportunities for the airlines and services for the public "are very important," but declared, "It’s unfair to the people living near the airport—there’s got to be a proper balance."
Shulman quickly added:"We’ve got to find some reasonable solution to this. We’ve got to try to figure out how to deal with this in a way that makes sense."
Meanwhile,FAA officials were on record as saying they’ll be able to deal with the new heavy flight additions. And Port Authority officials are trying to create a workable solution, spreading flights out a bit more, but the airlines are still interested in cramming them into peak flying hours.
The outcome of the meeting could not be learned because the Gazette went to press before it concluded. We will report on it in next week’s issue.
Shulman, residents and leaders in communities near the airport became concerned with the publication of a newspaper report that 300 "regional flights" will be added at LaGuardia in coming months.
The flights,using smaller, less noisy aircraft and servicing now poorly served areas such as upstate New York, are authorized under a law passed last April which extended controls over the number of flights by larger planes until 2007 but opened the door to more regional flights.
The law extending the so-called HighDensity Rule (HDR) to place a cap on large plane activity was supported by all Queens congressmembers, United States Senators Daniel P.Moynihan and Charles Schumer, Shulman and community leaders in areas close to LaGuardia.
But, Shulman exclaimed, "When they passed the law, no one had any vision of so many [planes] taking off."
President BillClinton signed the bill, although he said he wanted to see th HDRrule scrapped at major airports such as LaGuardia and John F.Kennedy International Airport in order to spur competition among airlines to improve service and lower flight prices.In this spirit, the increase in regional flights was offered as a compromise and the president signed the bill.
Now the full impact of the new law is beginning to be realized as the various airlines are engaging in stiff competition to service the new markets. But questions remain about whether airline and airport officials can structure the additional flight activity to assure the public’s safety and not inundate local areas with excessive noise and activity from the skies.
Last month, ContinentalAirlines announced it would add from 95 to 120 new flights daily (some 39,000 flights a year) to places such as Knoxville, Tennessee and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts using the smaller, less noisy planes.
Delta Airlines next announced it would service those same destinations, although it did not issue any numbers of their flights.
While other major airlines like American and TWA are expected to join the competition, sources reported the total of new flights would be about 300 and a spokesman at the Port Authority confirmed the report.
Commenting on the report concerning Continental, Shulman said with some annoyance that the airline was moving this part of their operation out of Newark Airport because the volume of flight activity there is slowing down flight schedules.
Delta,Shulman said, plans to add 21 more small cities to the 10 it presently serves from LaGuardia.
Addressing the prospect of more flights, FAAspokesman James Peters was quoted:"Our job is to move the traffic safely and efficiently. We do that now and will continue to do it."
The FAA’s position is not surprising, considering the ClintonAdministration’s policy of fostering more airline competition.
Expressing a more cautious approach,William De Cota, the Port Authorities director of aviation, said his agency is ready to negotiate flight schedules with the airlines that keep a check on congestion while still considering noise concerns in local areas.De Cota noted that for their own self interest airlines should spread apart their flights as much as possible to minimize delays.
Indicative of the airlines’ thinking, Continental spokesperson Michelle Treacy countered:"We follow the demand."Peak is most popular among flyers, airlines say. "That’s when people want to fly,"Treacy said.