The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has called on New Jersey AOPA members to help defeat two bills in the state legislature that would seriously impact the state's ability to retain an adequate airport system.
"New Jersey once had one of the best airport systems in the nation," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "This latest legislative attempt to constrain what's left of that system is just another example of the state's failure to protect its airport assets."
AOPA has mailed more than 8,800 "Pilot Alerts" to New Jersey members, asking them to contact their state representatives and oppose Assembly Bill 2809 and Senate Bill 1682.
The bills would prohibit the expansion or extension of a runway if more than 15,000 people live within two miles of the airport, or if a school is located within 3,000 feet of the proposed runway extension, or a residential dwelling is within 1,000 feet of the runway. The intent, bill sponsors claim, is to enhance public safety and reduce "excessive" aircraft noise.
"But this legislation won't accomplish those goals," said Dunn, "and it may worsen existing safety, noise, and land-use compatibility issues. This legislation inappropriately discriminates against airports that should themselves be protected."
AOPA said the bills fail to provide an effective solution to resolve noise and safety conflicts between the airport and its neighboring community. The legislation is also "contrary to sound state and federal airport planning and funding practices."
Some AOPA members have already weighed in on the issue with the New Jersey legislature. One told his state representative, "Killing airports kills the local economy."
Another was even more specific, writing, "New Jersey must competitively provide access to telecommunications, transportation, education, capital, and skilled labor, or its growing enterprises will relocate elsewhere.... Cutting-edge communications and transportation provide the lifeblood of our enterprise. Without access to efficient air transport, we die."
AOPA has also expressed its opposition to the bills directly to the general assembly.
The association pointed out that airports are a community's gateway to the national air transportation network. "As part of this network, each airport sponsor has the civic responsibility to maintain, modernize, and develop the airport to accommodate current and future public need," AOPA wrote the chairperson of the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee.
"New Jersey already has land-use protection legislation on the books, but the state consistently fails to adequately enforce these existing laws," said Dunn. "AOPA strongly opposes these two bills."
The 365,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are more than 8,800 New Jersey pilots.
December 13, 2000