New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise
ocean routes

Ocean Routing

NJCAAN has solutions to the Garden State air noise controversy. NJCAAN's airspace plans use industrial areas, ocean airspace, higher altitudes and other procedures for noise abatement. These plans bring significant relief to over one million citizens affected by aircraft noise from Newark International Airport; to Bergen and Passaic County residents affected by LaGuardia International Airport; and to Monmouth and Ocean County residents affected by Kennedy International Airport.

In the winter of 2004, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey implements airport monitors with online flight patterns allowing citizens to view metro airport traffic with a slight time delay.

The links are:
Newark International Airport http://www4.passur.com/ewr.html
LaGuardia Airport http://www4.passur.com/lga.html
John F. Kennedy International Airport http://www4.passur.com/jfk.html

Airport Noise in New Jersey: A Past History, in Brief

The Expanded East Coast Plan (EECP), implemented in 1987 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) without an environmental review, caused enormous public outcry throughout Northern and Central New Jersey. Congress responded by mandating a full after-the-fact Environmental Impact Study (Aviation Safety and Capacity Act of 1990). It also required that the FAA report to Congress on noise reduction strategies it intended to implement -- or explain why it could not address the issue.

Concurrently, the Department of Defense and the FAA undertook a joint study of ocean airspace access. Its findings, announced in December '91, were that "effective procedures" were already in place for granting commercial jets increased access to mid-Atlantic special-use military airspace. Seizing on this conclusion, Senators Bradley and Lautenberg jointly declared "it is now up to the FAA to fully explore this option" of using ocean routing. They further asserted that "steps be taken as quickly as possible to implement" ocean routes to reduce airport noise.

Energized, a New Jersey think tank, the New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research (NJCER), commissioned recently retired FAA airspace designer Glenn Bales, to develop an airspace ocean route design. It later became known as the 'ocean route plan.'

In June '93, NJCAAN and NJCER presented the 'ocean route plan' to Senator Lautenberg, then Chairman of Appropriations, and the committee overseeing FAA funding. He declared he would "personally send" it to the Secretary of Transportation. In July, Governor Florio and NY/NJ Port Authority Chairman Leone publicly endorsed the 'ocean route plan.' At the end of the year, Senator Lautenberg revealed, "I have advocated to the FAA and the Port Authority the immediate testing of NJCAAN's ocean routing proposal."

In 1994, NJCAAN chartered a noisy DC 9 to fly the 'ocean route plan.' Noise monitors, human 'ear' monitors, and the press were positioned from Central down to South Jersey. At ground level, no overflight noise was audible. The test confirmed the 'ocean route plan' as safe and environmentally effective. These findings were later reaffirmed in a technical review by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The study team recommended the immediate testing of ocean routes to reduce airport noise.

In the FAA's 1995 Final Environmental Impact Statement of the EECP, the agency, in justifying the limited scope of changes it examined states: "The FAA does not believe that the public interest would best be served by potentially delaying relief that could be implemented in the near future. Instead, the FAA proposes to complete the current EIS process, to expedite any potential noise relief actions for some affected communities, and to develop possible mitigation strategies as a part of a follow-on regional study."

An October '95 report, issued by the House Aviation Subcommittee as the FAA's final decision on New Jersey's EECP's EIS, stated; "FAA's decision was to incorporate the Solberg Mitigation Proposal. FAA's announcement said "This decision does not in any way signify the end of the agency's commitment to work with New Jersey residents to reduce aircraft noise." FAA plans on continuing to seek noise mitigation strategies, but as part of a regional study as opposed to just focusing on New York and New Jersey."

This FAA public policy position is repeated again by Eastern Region Administrator Feldman who commits to continue work with the Port Authority and local communities "to explore alternatives to reduce noise and revise air traffic procedures and routes. In addition to the Solberg Mitigation Proposal in the Record of Decision, the FAA commits to undertaking a follow-on regional study to address the metropolitan New York area."

NJCAAN's position is that the current Metropolitan Airspace Redesign Project is the "follow-on regional study" and, as such, noise reduction must be a FAA primary objective.

As air traffic increases in 2004 so has noise - affecting communities as far as 50 miles from the airports. The environmental reality is that the decade-long absence of progress has further degraded New Jersey's quality-of-life. The political reality that permits this ever-growing degradation is the united preclusion of ocean routing by the FAA, PA, and Continental Airlines that is quietly, yet proactively, enabled by elected officials.

NJCAAN's Ocean Route Proposal and the FAA's Response: A Recent Historical Perspective:

In February 1999, federal legislation is introduced mandating a six-month live test of Ocean Routing (HR 620).

In March 1999, following a year of investigation, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a neutral scientific academic body, publicly endorses ocean routing as one of six "interim action" items to achieve airport noise relief. It specifically recommends ocean routing, higher altitudes, and industrial and industrial corridors as routing procedures to be immediately adopted to reduce airport noise over New Jersey.

In October 1999, following another failed attempt at noise reduction, the FAA issues its Executive Summary Assessment of the '260 Degree Turn' and states: "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is committed to reducing aircraft noise exposure in communities near Newark International Airport (EWR). For more than 30 years, the FAA has been actively working with the airlines, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, elected officials, and community groups to identify and implement noise abatement measures. Because the area surrounding EWR has long been densely developed with urban land uses and because the land use pattern is unlikely to change dramatically in the future, noise abatement officials have focused on making adjustments to aircraft operational patterns in the airspace around EWR."

In November 1999, Governor Whitman writes FAA Administrator Garvey requesting live-testing of the first segment of the Ocean Route Plan.

In November 1999, the House Aviation Subcommittee hears testimony that confirms the Metro Airspace Redesign has established noise reduction as a goal of the redesign and will examine ocean routing. This same year, the FAA, in its first in a series of NY/NJ Metro 'airspace redesign project' newsletters, prominently cites four objectives for the redesign. It includes "Reduced adverse environmental impacts (both noise and air emissions)." It corroborates testimony offered to the House Aviation Subcommittee by FAA Administrator Garvey and FAA Eastern Region Administrator Feldman and restates the 1995 noise reduction pledge of the EECP.

In 2001, FAA Administrator Garvey and Port Authority Aviation Director DeCota testify before a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing and reaffirm the metro redesign is intended to address airport noise as a primary objective.

During 1999 and 2002, a "tidal wave" of endorsements follows. It includes members of the New Jersey Delegation, the State Legislature, County Freeholder Boards, and local municipalities.

Despite this extraordinary widespread support for Ocean Routing and the earlier pledge by FAA Administrator Garvey that noise relief will be a focus of the metropolitan airport redesign Eastern Region FAA publicly proclaims, in 2001, that the redesign will spread aircraft routes and its concomitant noise over the Garden State.

In its effort to promote airline industry redesign goals, the FAA blatantly dismisses Administrator Garvey's pledge to the citizens of New Jersey. It accomplishes this end by omitting aircraft noise reduction as a scoping purpose, listing only increased capacity and reduced delays as its primary intent. Background: the airlines oppose ocean routing because of the added cost associated with the extra miles required to implement this "good neighbor" route design. (NOTE: cost averages a dollar a ticket).

During the EIS scoping period in 2001, NJCAAN advocates a unified position from all elected officials. Critical components of the response include substantial noise reduction as a primary goal, implementation of Ocean Routing, and use of a variety of noise metrics to determine noise impact. Record widespread support is summarized under "Closing Date for the Environmental Impact Scoping Comments to the FAA on the Metropolitan Airspace Redesign." In March 2002, the FAA releases its scoping results report. Airport noise is the overwhelming concern of all respondents -- from public officeholders to citizens. Over 90% of New Jersey's elected officials endorse Ocean Routing in their scoping comments. Unfortunately, NOISE REDUCTION and OCEAN ROUTING remain an FAA postscript.

At the close of 2001, the FAA abruptly announces a major routing change. Called the Yardley/Robbinsville Flip-Flop, it exchanges Newark and LaGuardia arrival routes and goes into effect just days following the FAA's notice to the public. In the early weeks of 2002, an investigation is initiated to determine if the FAA has complied with proper legal procedures in implementing this route change outside of the ongoing redesign EIS. Freedom of Information Act requests are issued by counsel. NJCAAN reports the FAA FALSIFIED THE PUBLIC RECORD in order to conclude an environmental assessment could be avoided. This falsification provides cover to the FAA to hide the Flip-Flop from the citizens and elected representatives of New Jersey.

In June 2002, Senator Torricelli and Representative Ferguson publicly release their joint letter to the Department of Transportation Inspector General (DOT IG) requesting an investigation to determine if the FAA failed to follow legally required environmental guidelines in revising arrival air routes over New Jersey. The IG report is expected to be released in January 2003.

In January 2003, the FAA provides a metro airspace report to the public. Entitled "Listening to the Public," it absurdly assigns the task of noise reduction for its five-state airspace redesign to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This is the agency's latest effort to mislead the public and disengage from its obligation to address noise. The report specifically states five redesign objectives and despite its declaration of "listening," none of these objectives involve noise reduction. Further, the FAA specifically states noise reduction is not a redesign objective. Ocean routing receives no mention.

Shortly after the release of the FAA's metro airspace redesign report, NJCAAN publicly announces the discovery of an FAA WEB site accessed by the aviation industry and unrelated to the Metro Airspace Redesign. The site reveals the FAA has dismissed its own metro Scoping Report conclusion on its National Airspace Redesign WEB, a posting hidden-from-public-view. No mention is made of noise reduction or ocean routing. FAA intentions are confirmed -- more planes over more people for New Jersey's redesign outcome.

In February 2003, NJCAAN signs an agreement with Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic. It will provide legal representation to ensure substantial noise reduction for New Jersey as an outcome of the Metro Airspace Redesign.

In February 2003, the State Senate joins the State Assembly in adopting a resolution memorializing the President and Congress to include noise reduction as a redesign goal: AR 128 [6/20/02] and SR 71 [3/27/03]. Additionally, the Governor, on numerous occasions, has publicly promoted this position. Unanimity of purpose from all three branches of state government has been achieved with bipartisan support -- noise reduction must be a redesign priority.

In March 2003, State Senator Kean provides these resolutions to various elected officials in Washington and officially submits authenticated copies for the Metro Redesign public record.

In May 2003, the Transportation Inspector General completes his investigation on the FAA's compliance with NEPA in its implementation of the 12/01 Flip-Flop. Representative Ferguson's public release of the IG report shows the FAA failed to notify Congress about the changes and ignored "red flags" that the changes would increase airline noise for hundreds of thousands of residents.

In May 2003, recognizing that noise is the most common quality-of-life complaint across the nation, Senator Corzine and Representative Rothman circulate a bicameral NJ delegation letter that receives substantial bipartisan support. This letter, released to the entire Congress, seeks an alliance of concerned Members to establish substantial noise reduction as an FAA national redesign goal. The initiative opens up a new chapter in New Jersey's fight for quiet and establishes our Delegation as the conscience of the Congress on airport noise reduction.

In June 2003 at NJCAAN's request, the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic submits a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to the FAA requesting a variety of documents. Special emphasis is placed on securing modeling studies performed for the Metro Airspace Redesign and ocean routing.

In December 2003, the FAA responds to the FOIA refusing, in almost every case, our request or claiming to have no documents. The FAA's unremitting stonewalling makes clear the agency has a lot to hide. In response, the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic files an appeal.

In March of 2004, in an 'Airport Noise Report' the FAA's 29th Annual Aviation Forecast Conference is summarized. At this conference Transportation Secretary Mineta announces that airline passenger levels will return to pre-9/11 levels by 2005 and will exceed one billion by 2015. He also reveals preliminary findings of an FAA capacity study showing Newark, Philadelphia, and LaGuardia as three of five targeted airports slated for additional capacity. Further, FAA Administrator Blakey confirms that "staying the course in new runway construction was never a question," and is the priority format to increasing capacity.

In April of 2004, 'Aviation and Environmental News' reports the FAA announces a further delay in releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the Metro Airspace Redesign. Originally slated for a November 2003 release and later rescheduled for May 2004, this most recent announcement places the release date as "not likely to be completed before the second half of 2005." However, the operational modeling for all the considered alternatives is nearly complete and is being provided to the industry and the RTCA for comments. The public remains locked out of this process and the public officials representing affected citizens remain silent. And so the battle for quiet continues.

Subsequently, the FAA posts on the Metro Airspace Redesign project Internet page, a slide show presented to Congress on March 26, 2004. The FAA reported to Congress that it is using the RTCA as an Advisory Committee to develop the redesign. The agency also reported that it expected input from airport operators and final RTCA recommendations by mid-April. The reference represents the first indication by the FAA to the public of aviation industry participation in the Redesign Project.

The RTCA is chartered by the FAA as an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The committee consists of FAA/aviation industry members such as American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Federal Express, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

NJCAAN also unearths two memos posted on RTCA's Internet site. Aviation industry participation in the Redesign Project is taking place in the Airspace Work Group (AWG) of the RTCA Free Flight Select Committee (FFSC) and apparently began as early as August 2001. The memos do not contain specific information on the project modeling but clearly illustrate FAA/industry cooperation in the development of the Redesign Project. Continental Airlines is a primary player in activities of the Airspace Work Group of the FFSC.

This information leads to a series of discoveries including an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Transportation conducted in 2000 titled "The FAA's Use of RTCA as an Advisory Committee." The OIG conducted the audit to assess whether the FAA was in compliance with the FACA regarding its use of the RTCA. The audit made several recommendations including:

  • publish meeting minutes and other reports reviewed at closed meetings for public review; and
  • committee recommendations should flow through the committee deliberations process and not directly to the agency outside of the public eye.
The FAA's public disclosure of its activities with the RTCA on the Metro Redesign have been limited to cursory descriptions of concepts developed and a few meeting minutes of AWG FFSC committee meetings.

The 2004 Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill includes language requiring the FAA to publish a study on the Redesign Project by April 1, 2004. The study is to include " details on all planned components and elements of the redesign project, including details on aircraft noise reduction and any ocean routing modeling that has been conducted." The agency prepares the study but refuses to publish it.

In the summer and fall of 2004, NJCAAN is active with the New Jersey Congressional delegation seeking information on the FAA's modeling for the Redesign Project. Congressional delegation support comes from Senators Corzine and Lautenberg and Representatives Ferguson, Garrett, Frelinghuysen, and Payne. All members of the Delegation correspond with the FAA seeking information on the Metro Redesign. The FAA replies by stating it will not provide information to the public until the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is filed. The date for the filing currently is for the fall of 2005.

In August 2004, NJCAAN files a complaint on the Office of Inspection General's (OIG's) hotline regarding the FAA's apparent failure to comply with the recommendations of the 2000 OIG audit. The OIG has yet to respond to the complaint.

In September 2004, NJCAAN learns that the FAA has retired the RTCA FFSC, which it replaced with the RTCA Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee (ATMAC). The RTCA scheduled a ATMAC meeting on October 7, 2004, which included a review of the committee's recommendations on the Redesign Project. The meeting represents the first time where redesign information would be presented in a public setting. Three NJCAAN board members attend the meeting. Due to failure to post a meeting notice in the Federal Register, the meeting is reformatted to be an information only session and not a formal Advisory Committee meeting. Russ Chew, chief operating officer of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, headed the meeting. He abruptly ends the meeting prior to reviewing any information on the Redesign Project.

In November 2004, the 2005 Federal Budget is passed. It includes $4 million in funding for the FAA to continue to develop the Redesign Project. Despite no clear attempt by the agency to address aviation industry environmental issues, the project continues.

In February 2005, the RTCA ATMAC meets and provides only cursory information on the committee's activities to the public. NJCAAN believes that the RTCA would need to provide detailed information of its activities to the public in advance of any deliberations on recommendations in order for the public to participate in the committee's deliberations. In the meantime, the FAA continues to refuse to provide the public with the same level of information and involvement in the project that it has given to the aviation industry, which NJCAAN believes undermines the public's interests.

Top of the page

welcome  | archive