TV tower would force flight route changes
Saturday, December 07, 2002
BY RON MARSICO AND KEVIN COUGHLIN
Erecting a mammoth 2,000-foot television antenna in Bayonne would require re-routing planes at three area airports to ensure flight safety, according to a preliminary analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The tower, sought by area broadcasters to replace the one lost atop the World Trade Center, appears to pose potential aviation hazards that can be remedied, according to the initial review, which the FAA is seeking to supplement during a public comment period that runs until Jan. 2.
If built, the antenna would become the world's tallest free-standing structure -- well above the current record-holder, the 1,815.5-foot CN Tower in Toronto.
Among the key findings is the need at Newark Liberty International Airport to change some runway departure procedures and re-route certain planes that miss their first landing approach.
Some planes heading into LaGuardia Airport in Queens would have to approach at higher altitudes and descend on a steeper trajectory to ensure they clear the tower by at least 1,000 feet. Additionally, new departure procedures would have to be established for two runways at Linden Airport.
"All of these things sound significant to me," said Dean Iacopelli, who heads the controllers union at New York TRACON, the air traffic control center that oversees flight approaches to all the metro airports. "It's the most congested, complex airspace in the world. No matter what you do, it's significant, just because of the nature of the airspace."
A tract at the end of Bayonne's former Military Ocean Terminal has been the broadcasters' preferred site for the tower since New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg scuttled plans to put it on Governor's Island.
Officials in Jersey City want the tower to be built near the Liberty Science Center and include a public observation deck -- something the broadcasters say poses a security risk and is too costly. The broadcasters have not asked the FAA to study the Jersey City site.
Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman, said the agency will review the comments to determine whether more study is needed. If flight routes must be changed, then at minimum an environmental impact study must be done to consider various factors, including noise levels and air quality.
"We have sole authority for redesigning the airspace," Peters said. "We're not going to do anything that will create an unsafe condition."
Route variations are likely to cause more concerns on the ground than in the air, for reasons related to noise, not safety, said Dan D'Agostino, president of the Newark chapter of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
"It's so congested, any time you move anything a couple degrees, someone will be affected," D'Agostino said.
A veteran pilot said steeper descents to LaGuardia shouldn't be a problem -- as long as rerouting doesn't require any complicated "space shuttle maneuvers."
"What makes LaGuardia tricky is the short runways. It's not a question of getting in there, it's about stopping the airplane on the short piece of concrete you've got," said pilot Sam Mayer of American Airlines.
Ultimately, the FAA report is only a recommendation, though a negative finding could make it difficult for the broadcasters to insure the tower.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Television Alliance, a coalition of 11 area stations seeking to build the tower, declined comment on the FAA's initial findings.
In Jersey City, officials are watching developments in Bayonne.
"We're still in a holding pattern," said Elizabeth Romanaux, a Liberty Science Center official.
Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757