Teterboro Airport

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OPINION: For common sense at Teterboro Airport

The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

June 19, 2005 Sunday

By Joseph M. Del Balzo

Discussions about safety at Teterboro Airport have recently become heated, as public officials, community residents and local newspaper columnists call for "significant reductions" in airport traffic to address recent aircraft incidents there. Before entering the private sector, my work as an engineer involved safety planning for facilities in and around airports. My tenure at the Federal Aviation Administration was focused on airspace and airport safety, including Teterboro Airport. My responsibilities at the FAA brought me to Teterboro dozens of times, and as regional administrator for FAA's Eastern Region, my staff was on airport duty 24/7. If there was ever a safety concern at the airport, I assure you aggressive action would have been taken.

But my work at Teterboro showed me time and again the professionalism and emphasis on safety by pilots, air traffic controllers and everyone else at the airport. So I think it's time to shed some light - not just heat - on the way federal, state and local authorities successfully address safety at the airport.

The FAA conducts safety audits on all airport control tower procedures, and routinely examines all designated aircraft approaches, navigation aides and communications equipment at Teterboro. The FAA also certifies that Teterboro's assets - including the runways, runway markings, taxiways, lighting and pavement - are safe for aircraft traffic.

Earlier this year, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials announced plans to install foam "arrestor beds," which restrain wayward aircraft; such devices are already in use at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Port Authority is ordering firetrucks and will assume direct responsibility for fire protection. Officials have announced plans to lead training exercises with first responders in communities surrounding Teterboro.

What would aircraft traffic curbs do to address the accidents that have recently taken place? In truth, such a move would be misguided. The best approach to enhancing safety is to clearly identify underlying causes for accidents, and use that information to make appropriate and effective safety improvements.

We must remain vigilant about safety at the airport. But I hope that efforts to improve Teterboro safety will include more reasoned discussion and less heated rhetoric.

Joseph M. Del Balzo

Washington, D.C., June 16

The writer, president of JDA Aviation Technology Solutions, served as director of the FAA eastern region from 1981-89, and as acting FAA administrator during the political leadership transition in 1993.