When you’re sitting in a stadium watching your favorite team play, do you ever look up and wonder what the planes flying overhead are seeing?
Most people gravitate to the bird’s eye view, but what about the people below? What about athletes running plays and scoring goals?
The US Open knows well the distracting potential of overhead transport vehicles, so much so that it has actually implemented an air traffic rule.
Now that the 2022 US Open is here, let’s take a look at what we can expect when it comes to air traffic at the Grand Slam tournament:
Are there any air traffic rules implemented at the US Open?
Yes, there are air traffic rules and expectations for the annual Grand Slam tournament, the US Open.
Why are air traffic rules necessary?
Air traffic rules have become a necessity after a plethora of complaints were filed each year during the 14-day duration of the Grand Slam tournament.
According to Robert Thomas Jr. of The New York Times, “Complaints about noise from LaGuardia takeoffs have been almost as incessant as the takeoffs themselves (about 500 a day) since the Open left its former home on the West Side. Tennis Club at Forest Hills in 1978.
When were air traffic rules orchestrated?
Get ready for a deep dive into history, and no, I don’t mean just a few years ago.
In August 1990, Mayor David N. Dinkins, who was New York’s 106th mayor and served from 1990 to 1993, sparked the change to the US Open.
Dinkins received help from Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who had religiously petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to implement such changes for the duration of the tournament.
What happened after the mayor brought in the FAA to enforce air traffic rules?
Dinkins appealed to the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the typical procedures LaGuardia Airport had in place for the US Open. Previously, during the two days of the men’s and women’s singles finals, special take-off procedures were in place. However, Dinkins requested that the proceedings extend to the entire two-week tournament, rather than just the final days.
The mayor signed a contract in 1993 that said New York City would pay the US Tennis Association up to $325,000 a year if there were excessive overflights during the US Open.
What are the air traffic rules?
Simply put, as long as the weather permits, planes taking off during tournament hours would not use the Runway 13 route, which typically takes planes just above the tennis stadium in Flushing Meadows, NY.
Additionally, if weather does not permit, planes will use Runway 13 but follow an established (but rarely used) takeoff pattern that bypasses Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.
Has there been any controversy over the air traffic rules?
In fact, yes. Mayor Rudy Giuliani complained 10 years later about air traffic regulations. He accused US Open tournament directors of sacrificing air safety for quiet tennis courts.
Giuliani, who was known to be a longtime critic of City’s contract with the National Tennis Center, said the flight rerouting was an unnecessary inconvenience.
“It’s heavy normally when you’re not redirecting things,” Giuliani said in an interview with the NY Post. “But when you start deleting a lane or a route, all it takes is a little common sense to know you’re creating more problems.”
Agreeing with Giuliani, FAA spokesman Jim Peters asserted that they “would not compromise safety for the purpose of reducing noise in the stadium”. He believed that planes should only be redirected if and when weather conditions permitted. Otherwise, there is no point in taking the risk.
Joe Favorito, an FAA spokesman, settled the dispute by saying that if and when safety was in question, the rule would be lifted.