Deadly jet crash renews fear for residents near airport
Moonachie, N.J. — A deadly jet crash at a small airport outside New York City has dredged up dormant fears among residents who live within yards of where corporate jets take off and land.
A Learjet approaching Teterboro Airport smashed into an industrial area Monday afternoon, killing two crew members and damaging buildings. No one on the ground was injured. Federal investigators are scheduled to give an update on the crash Tuesday.
Residents of a community of trailer homes that sits across a street from the end of one of Teterboro’s runways are accustomed to the sound of planes taking off and landing.
John Falbo, who has lived in the New Jersey community for four years, said he can even smell the jet fuel as the planes pass by. Planes skirt one side of the development, but helicopters pass right over, he said.
Monday’s crash “hit so close,” Falbo said. “If it had hit here, this place would have gone up like a Roman candle.”
The airport sits in a densely populated area just north of MetLife Stadium, home to the NFL’s Jets and Giants, and has been a battleground over the years over the types and number of planes that should be allowed to land there.
New Jersey lawmakers, most notably former Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, have successfully fought off attempts by the Federal Aviation Administration to allow business jets weighing more than 100,000 pounds to use Teterboro. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez recently wrote a federal budget measure to continue that restriction.
Over the years, air carriers have agreed to a nighttime curfew and a ban on the noisiest planes at the airport. That hasn’t altered the fundamental equation for people who live nearby, said Mark Pfeifle, who also lives across the road from the runway.
Pfeifle said planes seem to pass about 30 or 40 feet above his home before landing. He said Monday’s crash reminded him of the potential dangers.
“It was pretty scary,” he said. “It could have hit us and could have took our homes out. A lot of people in here don’t exactly have a lot of money, and it could have done a lot of damage.”
Surveillance video from a nearby business shows the moment of impact and then a huge fireball. A man can be seen running across a parking lot toward the crash site as thick, black smoke spews into the air.
Two of the three buildings involved in the crash sustained fire damage.
Emergency responders worked for more than an hour to extinguish the blaze, which left a smoldering wreckage of cars in a parking lot. Police said 13 vehicles also were damaged.
The plane was registered in Billings, Montana, to a company called A&C Big Sky Aviation, which has a residential address. The owners of the residence are Daniel and Julane Wells. There was no answer at their home Monday night.
A Carlstadt police spokesman said the jet appeared to be listing before it crashed.
The National Weather Service warned of strong winds with gusts up to 45 mph (72 kph) just before the plane went down.
The jet had flown from Teterboro to Bedford, Massachusetts, early Monday. It then flew to Philadelphia later Monday morning before leaving for Teterboro in the afternoon.
Teterboro, which is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the oldest operating airport in the New York City area.