Jets too close over Queens airspace: FAA

By Phil Corso

A Federal Aviation Administration investigation into a near-miss between two airplanes has left one northeast Queens lawmaker warning of more turbulent times ahead.

The incident occurred June 13 at 2:40 p.m., when a Delta Airlines Boeing 747 arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport came too near to a Shuttle America Embraer E170 plane departing from LaGuardia Airport, the FAA said.

Though the Delta jet was cleared to land at JFK, its pilot called for a missed approach, keeping the plane in the air in anticipation of a modified landing.

The FAA said the planes were about a half a mile apart horizontally and 200 feet vertically. Air traffic control towers at both airports were in touch throughout the incident and followed procedures accordingly, the agency said.

“The two aircraft were turning away from each other at the point where they lost the required separation,” the FAA said in a statement. “Both aircraft landed safely.”

Back in Bayside, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) heard the news in the heat of an ongoing fight with the FAA over noise complaints stemming from the agency’s revising its departure procedures at LaGuardia. The lawmaker has been working with elected officials and community leaders for more than a year to address a drastic spike in airplane noise flying overheard and said the latest near-miss was a potential foreshadowing of things to come.

“As I have been saying for a while now, the FAA’s intention of permanently implementing this new departure procedure at LaGuardia Airport, and therefore increasing air traffic, will not only have a profound effect on noise and air pollution, it will also have a significant impact on airplane safety,” Avella said. “This latest incident is indicative of this danger.”

And though the agency has been speaking with borough officials and community leaders, residents throughout the Northeast have yet to report any relief from the ruckus.

FAA reps fielded residents’ concerns at a heated Bay Terrace community forum in March and said the agency was adjusting its procedures to make flight paths more predictable. Elected officials, including state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and U.S. Reps. Steve Israel (D-Melville) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) have also been in touch with the agency, staging several sit-downs with the FAA to keep it accountable.

The fight has been continuing through the latest chapter, when community activist group Queens Quiet Skies set out to establish a memorandum of understanding to establish an aviation roundtable with the FAA.

But the longer that Queens lies in wait, the more at-risk the community will become, Avella said.

“With the FAA’s attempt to increase airplane capacity, planes must be bunched ever closer together, creating hazardous conditions,” Avella said. “Unfortunately, if the FAA continues to pursue this goal, near-misses could become more common and lead to truly tragic events.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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