AOPA opposes New Jersey effort to limit airport development

March 10, 2003

AOPA on Thursday condemned a New Jersey bill that effectively stifles airport development. Democratic Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Jack Conners announced the legislation at a news conference near an airport with a history of complaints about noise, prompting Republicans to complain about political grandstanding. They say the Democrats jumped on an old issue to score political points in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

In a letter, AOPA told Conaway and Conners that the bill they're sponsoring, Assembly Bill 3886, sacrifices airport safety for dubious claims of noise reduction.

In his letter to the assemblymen, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula said, "Assembly Bill 3886 does not address aircraft noise or compatible land-use planning. Simply put, Assembly Bill 3886 limits airport development—regardless of noise or the size of aircraft operating at the airport.

"In order to improve safety, better serve a community, or to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airport design standards, it is often necessary to increase the width or length of a runway. In some circumstances, increasing a runway's length several hundred feet does not entice any larger aircraft to use an airport but may actually reduce aircraft noise. Aircraft require a certain amount of runway length to complete their takeoff roll, and by extending one end of the runway, the aircraft is able to gain more altitude before flying over noise-sensitive areas, considerably reducing the ground noise."

The proposed legislation would prohibit an airport from expanding or extending a runway if it is within 3,500 feet of a school or 1,000 feet of a residential dwelling, or if more than 7,000 residential dwellings are located within two miles of the airport.

Cebula said in his letter that a much better way to reduce airport noise complaints is for communities to pursue compatible land-use strategies.

"Rather than taking a unilateral approach to noise by prohibiting airport development, we strongly suggest a complete approach that addresses the unique nature of individual airports by combining compatible land-use planning and noise studies," he concluded. "No legislation should be enacted that would prohibit an airport from making necessary safety improvements or enhancements."

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