Ralph Tragale and Jim Steven weigh in on bird strikes, runway projects and more concerns at Monday's Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee.
After laying out their plans for a major reconstruction project
that will close Runway 4L/22R at JFK airport in 2014, Port Authority officials took the time Monday night to field questions from local officials, residents and members of the Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee.
Ralph Tragale, assistant director of Aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Jim Steven, manager of Physical Plant and Redevelopment at JFK airport, had this to say when asked about the following issues.Impact of Runway Closure:
When asked if any plan was in place to mitigate the impact the closure of Runway 4L/22R would have on communities living under the alternate flight paths, Tragale said no plan was in place yet but that “we will have that conversation with the airlines and my sense is we will have good cooperation as we did on the Bay Runway."
He explained that in the past, the Port Authority has "asked airlines in those cases to reduce their schedules. We pick a time when there is less demand for air travel than in the summer months or holidays ... it has to be a cooperative effort.”
As for where the overflow traffic would go as a result of the closure, Steven said, “I can’t speak to how the FAA plans on dealing with it, but assume most would go over to 22L.”Runway Availability
: When asked about runway availability, one of the four criteria the FAA uses when determining runway rotation, Steven said, “There are very few occasions where I have less than three runways available … how [FAA officials] use it is their own prerogative.”
In response to a question about why the Bay Runway (13R/31L) is being used less than before it was rehabbed in 2010, Tragale said, "We make the runway available and it’s up to the FAA to determine the most efficient operation of those assets. And they have a lot of things they have to consider -- safety, wind, weather and I know they say runway availability, and that is in fact true --- but the runway’s back so why are they not using it? You’d have to ask them that. We’re not really sure. I also don’t know why the use of 22 has grown. We’ve asked them why and we’re not getting clear answers from them.”Construction Problems:
At the August TVASNAC meeting,
it was stated that the contractors who worked on replacing the Bay Runway's asphalt base with concrete did a poor job, and yet earned a bonus even though the concrete failed.
Steven said "the contractor met or exceeded all the demands," thus earning the roughly $10 million in incentives offered, adding, "the punch list did not affect the delivery of his bonus." (He explained that the Port Authority is looking into offering incentives for its next runway project too.)
Tragale explained, "It was a very small amount [of concrete], 25 blocks," less than half a percent, that had to be removed. "None of the construction punch list items or concrete issues that we had in any way affected the air traffic control," he added. "Somebody may have tried to lead you to believe that was the case ... certainly that's not what was driving 44 percent activity on [Runway] 22."
Steven added, "We had zero tolerance for failure on the Bay Runway and perhaps we were our own worst enemy, because we went looking for any potential issue and we wanted to ensure that it was corrected within the full time-frame of that contract ... We wanted 100-percent absolute certainty because we came out to the community and we said that this runway is not going to be taken out of service for unscheduled maintenance."Bird Strikes:
When asked what's being done to prevent bird strikes by planes, Tragale said, "We have two full-time wildlife biologists at JFK airport who are responsible for activities there. We do a whole host of things to mitigate bird activity."
The Port Authority meets with tenants to discuss proper garbage disposal to prevent bugs, which could draw more birds, and it is very mindful of the types of plantings it uses to also discourage birds in the area. It also works with local parks staff.
"If an aircraft should strike a bird and have an engine issue ... the Port Authority is liable for the value of that engine," he explained. "We have a responsibility not only to the FAA and the traveling public, but to the airlines financially, so it's in our interest to monitor bird activity."What questions and concerns would you have expressed to the Port Authority officials? Tell us in the comments space below.
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