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JFK night arrivals rise, complaints follow

Shown is an aerial photo of John F.

Shown is an aerial photo of John F. Kennedy International Airport taken at sunset. (June 26, 2011) Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Overnight arrivals on Kennedy Airport's Runway 22L jumped in the last four months of 2011 compared with the prior year, despite officials' promises to try to reduce noise in Nassau County communities along that route.

Air traffic controllers used Runway 22L for 800 more overnight landings between September and December than in the same period in 2010, an increase of 31.7 percent, according to Port Authority statistics.

Last fall, amid complaints about noise -- especially after dark -- Federal Aviation Administration officials said they would take measures to better monitor planes and give residents more quiet nights.

But people living in communities that are along the Runway 22L approach path -- including Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Elmont -- say there has been a discernible increase in noise.

"It's been miserable here," said Mary-Grace Tomecki, 37, of Floral Park. "It's never been this bad."

FAA officials said the agency has tried to rotate runway use when feasible on overnight arrivals, those between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

"Runway selection is based on several factors, including runway availability, wind, weather, operational efficiency, operational safety criteria and noise considerations," the agency said. "A number of these factors may be contributing to the increased use of runway 22L."

Steve Abraham, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at Kennedy Airport, said deciding which runway to use is based on safety and efficient departures.

"We are aware of the noise issue but we are constantly pressured to reduce delays, and a delay to the airlines means taxiing for two minutes versus one minute," he said.


Runway takes more flights

Records show controllers have relied more and more on Runway 22L for all arrivals.

From September to December in 2011, 25.8 percent of arriving overnight flights used that runway, compared with 20.2 percent for the same period in 2010. Runway 31R is used most often overnight, but its share of arrivals fell from 40 percent in September-December of 2010 to 27.5 percent in 2011.

Runway 22L's usage has increased at all hours as well. In 2009, the runway handled 14.06 percent of all arrivals. That share increased to 16.88 percent in 2010 and 16.19 percent in 2011, according to the Port Authority. In 2010, one of Kennedy's runways was closed four months for repairs.

Tomecki, a member of the Town-Village Aircraft Safety Noise Abatement Committee, said residents who live in the communities along the runway 22L arrival route had hoped the FAA and airport managers would do a better job of mixing up the use of runways at night.

An agreement that dates to 2000 details a noise-abatement plan between a community group and the FAA and the Port Authority, which operates Kennedy Airport. Under the plan, Runway 22L should be used only as a last resort during overnight hours.


FAA's October response

In October, FAA officials told residents the agency would take measures to reduce the amount of overnight jet noise, including monitoring the altitude of flights and air traffic controller decisions about runway selection.

"Our commitment is to monitor that [overnight fights] and provide you people with some relief," Michael Porchello, operations manager of the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, which oversees air traffic into New York City's three major airports, said during a public meeting.

The FAA said last week that in a recent audit of altitudes used by planes landing after 11 p.m., 35 of 38 arrivals were at or above the recommended altitude of 3,000 feet. The other three aircraft were at or above 2,000 feet.


Stream of complaints

Since the FAA started overnight noise-abatement procedures at Kennedy in November, 110 of the 175 email complaints sent through January related to Runway 22L, according to the agency.

The Port Authority has established a hotline to take phone calls about noise complaints. Port Authority officials didn't provide numbers of how many complaints they've received about noise when requested to do so last week.

"The Port Authority works closely with the FAA and its other aviation partners to monitor and respond to noise complaint issues at John F. Kennedy International and the agency's other airports," the authority said. "We will continue to work with our partners on noise abatement issues, such as soundproofing schools and alternating runways when possible to help reduce impacts on particular communities."

Aircraft noise will be the topic of a meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Garden City Library, 60 Seventh St. The town-village committee, which represents nearly 145,000 people living in 13 communities in Hempstead and North Hempstead towns, will host the meeting.

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