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Sarlo Calls Safety Hearing On Teterboro Airport

TRENTON – Senator Paul A. Sarlo, Chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee today said he is inviting officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to detail its plans to improve safety at Teterboro Airport which experienced its third airplane accident of the year on Tuesday.

Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, said the hearing would be held at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, June 20th, in the State House Annex.

“I’ve been encouraged by the recent commitment demonstrated by the Port Authority to implement a wide array of safety improvements at Teterboro,” said Senator Sarlo. “But I believe it is imperative that we hear details of a long-term strategy.”

Senator Sarlo said the accident Tuesday involving a small plane which crashed on landing and caught fire only underscored the need for safety improvements for the area near the heavily used airport which had more than 200,000 takeoffs and landings last year.

“It’s heartening to see the recognition by the Port Authority that a financial component from the bi-state agency is fundamental to putting the safety recommendations in place,” Senator Sarlo said. ” But we need a similar commitment over time from the federal government as well. I especially want to hear how the Port Authority plans to press the Federal Aviation Administration for a reduction in capacity at Teterboro.”

The FAA controls how many flights can take off and land at airports, but the Port Authority manages Teterboro and should make the case for a reduction in capacity, Senator Sarlo said.

The Port Authority last week announced a $20 million safety improvement plan for Teterboro that includes the installation of safety beds to be done by the summer of 2007 as part of a plan to prevent uncontrolled jets from careening off runways into heavily populated areas.

In February, a 20-ton corporate jet failed to lift off and, instead, ripped through an airport fence, crossed six lanes of Route 46 and crashed into a clothing warehouse, injuring 20 people, including two motorists.

“We were extremely fortunate to escape without fatalities in the February crash of the corporate jet, but if we do not act swiftly, further tragedy is to be expected,” Senator Sarlo said.

The technology for the safety plan calls for a bed of concrete blocks to be laid at the end of runways to stop or slow runaway jets. Port Authority officials say they have used the system known as foam arrestor beds for several years LaGuardia and Kennedy international airports.

The Port Authority also announced plans for taking over the airport’s fire protection service from a private contractor and pledged to lead training exercises with first responders in surrounding communities.

In addition, the bi-state agency announced it had placed at Teterboro a piece of fire-fighting equipment known as a snozzle which spreads fire-suppressing foam. The equipment was awaiting FAA approval for use on small aircraft at the time of the Feb. 2nd accident.

“I look forward to an enthusiastic and informative presentation by the Port Authority so the people of New Jersey can learn first hand how a small airport can be made safe,” Senator Sarlo said.