Political heavyweights from throughout Queens were on hand at LaGuardia Airport last Friday as Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) announced legislation that would require airlines to stock their fleets with quieter planes.
The Quiet Skies Act (HR 3650) will, if passed, give the Federal Aviation Administration until the end of 2015 to come up with regulations that would require all domestic airlines to phase in quiter aircraft, or those meeting the federal Stage 4 noise requirements.
Speaking in the rotunda at LaGuardia’s historic Marine Air Terminal, Crowley acknowledged that traffic at both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports — as gateways to the city and country — will and must continue and increase.
But under his bill, all domestic passenger airlines would have to have 25 percent of their fleets replaced or retrofitted with quieter engines every five years until 2035, when all commercial aircraft would be covered.
He was joined by Queens congressional representatives Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Steve Israel (D-Queens, Long Island) and Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau), as well as a slew of state and city officials and members of grassroots neighborhood organizations.
“Airports can never be perfect neighbors, but we can take steps to make them better neighbors,” Crowley said.
Crowley said that when the FAA introduced Stage 4 standards in 2006, they only applied to new aircraft. Regulations were ambiguous at best on whether or not airlines could be required to act on existing planes.
With LaGuardia and Kennedy both located within Queens, virtually the entire borough is under one flight path or another.
In some instances the departure patterns from one airport overlap with the landing approaches to the other.
Crowley said his constituents in the Bronx are not immune from the noise as passenger jets on final approach to LaGuardia often come in over the Bronx and Fairfield County, Conn.
Israel, who began serving Northeastern Queens right up to the airport’s boundaries back in January, said the region recently scored a major victory by convincing the Port Authority, which operates both airports, to form an Airport Advisory Committee.
But he also said the parts of his new district in Nassau and even Suffolk counties would benefit from the passage of Crowley’s bill.
Crowley himself said that while he has not done a formal head count in the House of Representatives, he does not believe that airport noise pollution is a Democratic or Republican issue.
Janet McEneany, president of Queens Quiet Skies, said resident groups also are firmly behind the congressional delegation.
And she said she is tired of hearing how airports serve as an economic engine for communities.
“For too long, the interests of residents here were not considered when aviation procedures were planned,” she said. “With creative problem-solving like Rep. Crowley’s legislation, the airlines will actively participate in finding answers that will protect millions of residents on the ground without sacrificing performance, jobs or safety.”
As to her final point, Crowley said his office has not spoken with the engineers and scientists at companies like General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, American-based firms that are among the top jet-engine designers and manufacturers in the world.
“What I do know is that in the past we went from Stage 2 to Stage 3,” he said.
His bill contains the allocation of $10 million available to manufacturers interested in researching the next generation of quiet engines, money that would be paid back over time by the sale of successful production models.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) raised the possibility that some noise control technologies developed for the military’s Stealth aircraft could be made available for civilian commercial use.
Crowley did not rule out the idea down the road, saying airlines often have benefitted from advances in the military, with the understanding that nothing could be done to compromise military or intelligence prerogatives.
The congressman also said that since Stage 4 is now the internationally recognized standard for noise control, he has no worries that a new law would cause financial or competitive disadvantages either for foreign airlines serving U.S. markets or domestic carriers that choose foreign-manufactured models such as Airbus.