Lawyers Present Arguments In FAA Airspace Redesign Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Redesigned flight plans intended to reduce delays at New York area airports will increase noise and pollution, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued before a federal appeals court last week.

Blumenthal was supporting a lawsuit filed last year under a joint state-municipal alliance. It was consolidated with several other similar suits, including one filed by Elizabeth. The legal challenge could force the Federal Aviation Administration to rewrite its regional air traffic plan.

The FAA proposal could increase air traffic by as many as 150 planes per day, Blumenthal argued.
“These FAA flight paths fly in the face of reason and law, completely disregarding the impact of noise levels on highly populated areas throughout the Northeast,” Blumenthal said.

The attorneys arguing against the air traffic plan argued that the flight patterns should be struck down for violating the Clean Air Act and other regulations because the Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental analysis downplayed how much noise and emissions the increased air traffic would create.

Some of the data used by the FAA to determine the environmental effects was inaccurate, Blumenthal said.

“The FAA knew it had defective data on noise and traffic, but then inexplicably refused to correct the data,” Blumenthal said.

FAA administrators used questionable data, including inaccurate statistics about the volume of flights out of Newark International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2006, Blumenthal said, which skewed the report’s findings.

“All of their modeling now includes this incorrect data,” Blumenthal said.
The FAA also failed to pursue promised changes that would lessen the environmental effects, including routing more planes over water and monitoring noise, he said.

In a brief filed with the court, the FAA said flight paths have to be changed to assure safe and efficient air traffic control procedures, accommodate growth and reduce delays in the airspace over New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

The FAA contends that the added air and noise pollution would not be significant, and the moves would eliminate more than 200,000 hours in flight delays.

A court decision could take two to three months, Blumenthal said.

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