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County Has Mixed Responses to International Flight

LARCHMONT, N.Y. – Update : Donna Greene, spokeswoman for Westchester County, spoke to Westchester County Airport manager Peter Scherrer, who confirmed that the airport authorized JetBlue to land its A320 airplanes.

The airline recently decided to land Embraer 190s at the airport.

"At the moment, all of them...are the (E190) plane that weighs 114,000 (pounds) loaded," Greene said. "The other plane that they have used in the past and will certainly be using around holiday time is 169,750 (pounds) and they have permission."

Green said that the county airport does not grant permission to everyone who asks for it.

"It's not automatic that when you ask for the higher weight, you get it," Greene said. "JetBlue is totally following rules and regulations as outlined in airport laws."

Mateo Lleras, spokesman for JetBlue, said that the airline is not expanding the number of planes at the airport, but is replacing a flight to Southwest Florida International Airport with a flight to Nassau. He said that restrictions on the number of passengers led to the change to the Embraer 190.

"We recently shifted from our A320 fleet to the E190's to make sure we met the 240 passenger/hour allocation at all times of the day," Lleras wrote in an email. "We were artificially capping our A320 flights to meet the restriction."

The addition of JetBlue international flights to the Bahamas from Westchester County Airport has some county residents thrilled while others are up in arms.

Pelham resident Barbara Nichuals owns four travel agencies, including Bayside Travel in Larchmont. She said the flights to the Bahamas will help her business.

"For my clients in this community, it will be a tremendous boost," Nichuals said. "It will be a boon to travel."

But not everyone who lives in Westchester supports the expansion at the airport. Reportedly, the airport's first international flights, which are scheduled to start in November, have irked some county residents.

Rye Brook resident Marcia Teschner, 90, who sits on the County Airport Citizens Advisory Council, said that county law should prevent the growth of the airport.

"(I oppose) the creeping expansion that is not allowed under county law and the county resolution," Teschner said. "The current management calls it semantics."

Teschner said that no more than 240 passengers can board planes or leave the plane every half hour, according to the law. She said the airport violates this law, but it avoids the penalties by taking them on days when few to no planes take off, such as a snowy day in the winter.

The airport is building new baggage and passenger facilities and increasing security to adjust to the increased number of travelers. According to the county, roughly 2 million people fly out of the Westchester Airport each year.

Teschner has already fought the expansion with some success. She said she alone discovered that JetBlue was using A320 planes that weigh 150,000 pounds. She alleged that this was an illegal practice and that the county law does not permit planes of this weight.

However, Westchester County law states, "No aircraft with a certified maximum gross weight in excess of 120,000 pounds shall land or take off at the airport without prior permission of the manager."

Kiran Outar, airport operations supervisor at Westchester County Airport, said JetBlue’s decision to stop using A320 planes at the airport has nothing to do with weight limit. He said that 100,000 pounds is merely a record that the airport keeps to track heavy operations on the pavement.

A JetBlue spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal in July that the airline decided to start landing smaller Embraer 190 planes at the airport.

Outar added that JetBlue sends planes with more seats to airports with more travelers. "They rotate them based on capacity," Outar said. "They only have X amount in their fleet, so it's based on their load."

"If they can't bring in the larger planes, they don't need a larger waiting room and they don't need to build the additional building," Teschner said. "The expansion is for passenger comfort, not for the people who have been living (in the towns) below (the airport) long before any of this expansion took place."

Three phone calls to JetBlue at the Westchester County Airport were not answered Tuesday evening.

What do you think of the expansions and growth at the Westchester County Airport? Do you think it will help the county or harm it? Comment below, on Facebook or Twitter .

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