Despite protests from community groups and politicians, air traffic controllers will be allowed to direct planes on two new routes out of Philadelphia International Airport starting at 9 a.m. this morning, a government spokesman said.
"We will be flying over communities that we have not flown over before," said Jim Peters, regional spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Beginning at 9 a.m. today through 11 a.m. and then from 2 to 7 p.m., if the wind conditions are right, and currently they are," Peters said shortly this morning, ". . .the controllers have the option to use the two additional headings to get aircraft out of the airport."
Planes may fly out over the Delaware River as usual, and after they reach six miles or 3,000 feet, may be directed to take a new heading west, or at 2,000 feet, a new heading southwest, Peters said. The diversions depend on whether the flights are headed to the Midwest or south.
The new routes, part of an airspace redesign plan that stretches from New York to Philadelphia, are intended to reduce takeoff delays, cut airline operating costs and fuel use.
Communities from Connecticut to Delaware have sought to block the changes in court.
Also, the Government Accountability Office is expected to release the findings of an audit on the plan next Spring, said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., New Jersey).
Andrews said many new communities will be adversely affected while residents that currently endure the roar of jets flying over their homes will see no benefit because the new routes will allow more planes to take off. Meanwhile, he claimed, travelers will likely only see a "minuscule" decrease in delays.
"We think a lot of money is going to be spent to accomplish nothing," Andrews said.
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), who represents municipalities in Delaware County that will see new traffic patterns, called the FAA decision to move forward today "arrogant and unsafe."
"This is a dangerous maneuver by FAA that will result in a very limited decrease in delays, of only 27 seconds per flight, despite numerous studies demonstrating that aircraft noise at low altitudes will increase risks of individuals developing cardiovascular disease and hinder the educational development of our children by one year," Sestak said in a written statement.
Some air traffic controllers have indicated they may not be ready to handle the change.
At the WaWa on the Chester Pike in Ridley Township, residents already accustomed to the regular roar of airplanes flying overhead were concerned that the increased traffic would drive them into their houses.
"I'm got going to be able to sit outside at nighttime," said Mikey Buddy, a WaWa cashier who lives in Ridley Towsnhip.
"It's ridiculous. Summertime, when we sit out on our decks..we have to deal with the planes flying over," said Joe Mellon, who lived in nearby Tinicum Township for about a year where he said the air traffic was worse than Ridley.
Mellon said he was concerned that with the new flight plans Ridley would become like Tinicum.
"You could almost throw a rock and hit an airplane..I was right on the water," he said of his home in Tinicum.
While some were concerned, others shrugged off the change.
"It doesn't bother me a bit," said Donald Speace of Ridley Township. "People who buy houses, they know the airport is there."