July 24, 2012

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce FAA Has Agreed to Return Sidney Airport to Nighttime Service, Suspension Caused Significant Harm to Airport Business; Senators Successfully Urged Agency to Quickly Review Terrain Data & Restart Nighttime Flights

In February, Schumer & Gillibrand Pushed FAA to Swiftly Review Village of Sidney’s High-Terrain Data Necessary to Repeal Prohibition of Nighttime Travel - FAA Delays Stood in Way of Sidney Airport Return to Nighttime Service

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that  the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has heeded their call and approved Sidney Municipal Airport’s application for the Airports Geographic Information System (AGIS) program that had been preventing the critical return to nighttime travel at the airport. In late 2011, the FAA instituted a prohibition of nighttime travel at Sidney Airport in Delaware County, based on their determination that the region’s surrounding high-terrain lacked appropriately detailed survey data, preventing pilots from having an accurate assessment of the area during nighttime flights. The Village of Sidney completed and submitted a new aeronautical survey of the airport and surrounding terrain earlier this year to meet the FAA’s needs and to therefore repeal this current nighttime prohibition. 

In February, Schumer and Gillibrand urged the FAA to work swiftly to approve this application and to communicate with the Village of Sidney regarding any further information needed to lift this ban. The ban had forced officials at Sidney Airport to waive off planned flights and change service plans, had negatively impacted private air travel for local residents and business representatives, and has been a drain on the local government and economy. The Senators applaud the FAA’s expedited review and approval.

“Sidney Airport is once again set for a return to nighttime service, which is great news for the health and vitality of the airport and local businesses throughout Delaware County,” said Senator Schumer. “I am thrilled that the FAA has heeded our call to expedite the review of Sidney Airport’s application to get flight services back on track, and to provide a green light to nighttime flights that are essential to the region. Our rural airports are the lifeblood of the communities that they are in, and the news that the current ban on nighttime travel has been lifted will get Sidney Municipal Airport back on track.” 

“This is the right move for Sidney Airport, and I am pleased the FAA came to the table and worked with local leaders in good faith in this effort,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Restoring night service will help create better access to Delaware County to help keep travelers and businesses here on the move, and help strengthen the local economy.” 

In late 2011, the FAA determined that due to surrounding high-terrain and a lack of detailed survey data, certain airport activity at Sidney Municipal Airport would no longer be permitted after dark, including all night flights during periods of low clouds or reduced visibility. This ban creates a substantial hardship to business users like the local air charter operator, and also puts a strain on local economic activity. The Village of Sidney has since completed a new aeronautical survey of the Airport and surrounding regions as part of a recent FAA-funded master plan. However, the evaluation of the Village of Sidney’s application has met delays in the FAA’s AGIS office, even though the Village has submitted the necessary modifications that the FAA identified in order to accept and process the survey data for the Airport. In February, the Mayor of Village of Sidney sought help from Schumer’s office in order to break through these delays in approving the new survey data which has been submitted, and to help bring back nighttime service at Sidney Airport. 

The Village of Sidney has worked with the New York Airports District Office (NYADO) of the FAA Eastern Region, who then coordinated with the appropriate national FAA office for the AGIS program. The AGIS office had to then review the application to repeal the current nighttime prohibition over the use of published instrument approach procedures at the airport. Developing an AGIS program is complex and can entail a comment period and submission revisions. Schumer and Gillibrand urged the FAA to move forward expeditiously with this process, so as not to hold up a repeal of the ban any longer. 

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to FAA in February appears below:

 

Dear Acting Administrator Huerta: 

 

I write regarding the Sidney Municipal Airport’s application currently under review by the FAAs Airports Geographic Information System (AGIS). The application is for the repeal of the current nighttime prohibition over the use of published instrument approach procedures at the airport.  The current nighttime prohibition and the delay in approving the new AGIS survey continue to burden the airport, its commercial clients, and the Village of Sidney with substantial hardships. I ask that you work with the airport and the Village of Sidney to expeditiously complete your review of this application so that night time service can resume. 

 

The prohibition was instituted in late 2011 due to the FAA determination that the surrounding high terrain lacked appropriately detailed survey data.  This determination prohibits pilots from using the previously published and approved instrument approach procedures; effectively preventing the airport from being used at night during periods of low clouds or reduced visibility.  This prohibition has placed a significant burden on the airport’s business users, particularly its local air charter operator. 

 

In an effort to lift this prohibition, the Village of Sidney has completed a new aeronautical survey of the airport and surrounding terrain as part of a recent FAA-funded master plan. The survey data have been submitted in accordance with the FAA’s AGIS program.  While your agency has identified some modifications to the submitted data plans, which must be corrected before the survey data will be accepted and processed, the overall process appears to be moving along at a very slow pace.  As indicated above, this prohibition is negatively affecting the airport’s ability to conduct business.  The Village of Sidney has been working diligently with the New York Airports District Office of the FAA Eastern Region. Unfortunately, the Village reports that FAAs AGIS offices have been very slow in responding to their requests and the delays are preventing the repeal of the nighttime prohibition at a reasonable pace.  The Sidney Municipal Airport and the Village of Sidney need for this process to be accelerated and for your agency to respond to their requests in a timely fashion so this burden may be lifted as soon as possible.