Residents fight FAA flight paths

February 20, 2008 3:25:39 PM PST
Neighbors are still fighting the FAA's decision to direct flights over their Delaware County homes. The FAA's controversial new departure plan is suppose to cut down on airport delays.

Until now, most critics complained about the noise generated by low flying jets over populated areas. On Wednesday, they claimed the FAA is playing fast and lose with public safety.

"A little bit of an unsafe practice here, a little bit here, adds up to an FAA that isn't doing it's job," Congressman Joe Sestak (D) of Delaware County said.

Congressman Sestak is joined by the head of the local Air Traffic Controllers union. Their claim is differences between the printed instructions and departure instructions radioed prior to takeoff have lead to confusion in airliner cockpits.

"We've noticed and reported a rise in incidents of miscommunications and some cases mistaken instructions being followed," Don Chapmen of the union said.

Under the new plan imposed by the FAA, westbound departures often turn right from runway 2-7 left just as landing aircrafts arrive on parallel runway 2-7 right. There's plenty of separation, normally.

Controllers worry about the scenario where a landing plane misses its approach and in an emergency must regain altitude, putting it on a potential collision course with a departing westbound flight.

The union claims the FAA didn't do its homework.

"It should be very clear to note that Philadelphia controllers were never allowed to participate in the development of these procedures," Chapman said.

An FAA spokesman told Action News, "The new departure procedures are safe. They have been vetted for safety. Assertions that the FAA is putting people who fly out of Philadelphia at risk is outrageous."