Delta may soon alight in Mercer County, offering flights to two popular business and vacation spots — Boston and Atlanta. Central New Jersey and Bucks County travelers, thoroughly sick of big-airport parking and security line hassles, will rejoice if the airline actually does what so many airlines in the past have failed to do and carves out a permanent home in central New Jersey. But some Ewing residents, enjoying the peace in their still-somewhat-rural corner of the country, do not share the joy, and are united as PLANE (People Limiting Airport Noise and Expansion) to fight the latest big-airline incursion.
When it comes to natural resources, it is impossible to please everyone. People who live in Princeton or Yardley and have to fly to Boston or Atlanta, or to connect to other cities through those hubs, are probably very glad that the Mercer County freeholders unanimously voted to approve Delta Airlines flights from Trenton-Mercer airport at a Friday, August 18, meeting. People who are trying to put babies to sleep or enjoy the pennant race in their Ewing homes are considerably less happy.
The fact that numerous airlines have tried, and failed, to find a customer base in central New Jersey, doesn’t mean that the airport near their homes is sprouting weeds. Far from it. It is one of only three commercial airports in New Jersey, averages approximately 150,000 aircraft operations each year, and is home to one commercial air carrier, the aviation units of numerous Fortune 100 companies, one corporate terminal and repair base, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey National Guard, and the U.S. Marines.
Now Delta carrier, which will operate flights through its Comair subsidiary, is free to start flying as soon as it obtains approval from the FAA. The airline plans three flights a day to both Boston and Atlanta.
In welcoming Delta, the county freeholders pointed out that the planes Delta will use, Bombardier CRJ-200s, are quieter than most of the corporate jets and helicopters that now buzz in and out of the airport all day long.
Meanwhile, Pan Am Clipper Connection, a subsidiary of Boston-Maine Airways, which already services Trenton-Mercer Airport, is to add flights from the airport. It will soon fly to the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport in New York and to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland.
The new service will begin with two daily non-stop flights to Elmira, starting on Tuesday, September 12, and one daily non-stop flight to Baltimore-Washington beginning on Tuesday, September 19.
Pan Am currently provides five nonstop, round-trip flights to Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachussets from Trenton-Mercer Airport Monday through Friday, and one connecting flight to Portsmouth, New Hampshire from Bedford. The Trenton-Mercer to Hanscom route, the airline’s most successful to date, will continue uninterrupted.
While the airlines are celebrating and the freeholders are giving their blessing, residents are fuming. A look at the airport’s website, www.mercercounty.org/airport/faq, provides some insight into their ire. It states, for example, that the airport is open 24 hours a day, that any noise abatement procedures undertaken by air craft using it are entirely voluntary, and that it is neigh onto impossible to identify any pilot reported by residents as flying very low.
On the subject of possible actions against pilots who might be buzzing homes surrounding the airport, the airport, via its website, has this to say: “There is no way to be sure. Federal law does not require TTN (Trenton-Mercer Airport) to keep records on the identity of those pilots departing or arriving here. If you happen to see the aircraft’s tail number, we may be able to research it further; otherwise we can only put your complaint into our database for general noise report analysis. While the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) does maintain certain pertinent records for a limited period of time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not allow the release of such information to the public, due to aircraft security concerns.
“Please remember, Federal law calls for the greatest possible access to public airports. Anything that inhibits access, or invades the expectation of pilot privacy, is greatly restricted.”
Not much joy there for the airport’s neighbors, but, on an up note, the airport, quoting studies untaken in 1996 and 2001, assures them that its presence will not decrease the value of their homes. It also states that noise is basically in the ears of those barbequing or gardening below. “One individual can be greatly bothered by aircraft noise,” suggests the website, “while another individual may hardly notice the same noise.”