Local Officials Warn: Curb Flights At LaGuardia Or Face Possible Crash Here
Local Officials Warn:
Curb Flights At LaGuardia
Or Face Possible Crash Here
The cause of Monday’s catastrophic airplane crash in Belle Harbor near John F. Kennedy International Airport is still shrouded in mystery, but public officials whose districts include La Guardia Airport are calling for steps to be taken to prevent a similar deadly occurrence in the residential areas around La Guardia.
City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D), who has represented the Astoria area for close to 30 years and has dealt with the La Guardia problem throughout, said he was working with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on providing help for survivors. "We’ve also got to find out what the cause of the crash was, and if it was mechanical, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines must address it."
Turning his attention to La Guardia, Vallone said what must be addressed is "the madness of seeking to add more flights" at the small facility.
"Fortunately, our Congressional delegation and Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Carolyn Maloney (both of whose districts include La Guardia) have been very diligent and have been petitioning to scale back flights at La Guardia," Vallone stated.
"Perhaps the tragedy on Monday will serve as a wake-up call to federal and airline officials to curtail flights there," he said. "It’s not just a question of noise and air pollution, but a question of life and death. We don’t want congestion to be the cause of some future tragedy."
Flight activity at La Guardia was increasing rapidly at the start of 2000, but complaints from lawmakers and residents forced the Port Authority to scale back and impose a lottery system to keep the number of flights at a safer level.
Crowley also focused his comments on the necessity to keep tight control over the number of flights. "I’ve been saying this for three years since I became a Congressman," Crowley said, "because when planes go out or come in, they are for the most part flying over populated residential areas, so any increase in flights can be disastrous." This is especially true in La Guardia’s case because of all the airports in the United State’s, La Guardia has the largest number of populated areas surrounding it.
Crowley cautioned, however, that the cause of Monday’s crash, be it accidental or deliberate, must first be determined.
Citing eyewitness reports that before the plane plummeted to the ground, an engine was on fire and parts went flying state Senator George Onorato said this could indicate the 13-year-old aircraft should not have been in service, or perhaps shoddy maintenance was involved.
Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and City Councilmember-elect Peter Vallone Jr., both of whom said that the crash affected them deeply, called for fewer flights from La Guardia to lessen the odds of crashes occurring in the residential communities surrounding the facility in northwest Queens.
Federal officials said the preliminary indications appeared to rule out any terrorist activity being responsible for the crash. Marion Blakey, board chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), stated: "Every indication points to this being an accident."
Pointing to this, Onorato said, "There’s the possibility of mechanical failure and if so then it doesn’t speak well of the maintenance of the plane. Maybe it was too lax."
He added that it may be too soon to be making judgments," but I feel I must be raising these possibilities and questions because it may be a question of life and death for thousands of Queens residents, many of them my constituents."
Perhaps one lesson from the deadly crash "may be that the Federal Aviation Administration should do an exhaustive review of maintenance procedures with an eye toward much stricter maintenance guidelines."
Onorato added, "Perhaps they must devise a way to determine if a plane has reached the end of its usefulness."
The airplane that crashed had been in service for 13 years, according to published reports.
"I realize this can create enormous economic problems for an airline, but this is unimportant when planes carry 300, sometimes 500 passengers," Onorato said, "and if we are going to err, it must be on the side of safety and not financial considerations."
Gianaris (D-Astoria) was in Tampa Airport in Florida when the crash in Queens occurred. His flight was cancelled.
Vallone Jr., who was elected on November 6 to succeed his father, arrived at Kennedy on his return from a post-election vacation about an hour before the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 587 took off and crashed, killing more than 260 people.
Gianaris, who like Onorato and the Vallones has lived almost his entire life in the shadow of La Guardia, said, "For those of us who live just a few blocks from the airport, and for those whose homes are in the airport’s flight paths, we want to be sure that every security measure is being taken. This means there must be no further increase in the flight activity at the airport."
Vallone Jr. stated, "This was a terrible tragedy and at this point we don’t yet know the cause. One thing we do know, however, is that airports in heavily populated areas, such as La Guardia, should be decreasing the numbers of flights and not increasing them. The safety of the public is paramount."