It may not be a apocalyptic scene like from a Hollywood movie, but New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport faces closure owing to ‘rising sea levels’

21 June, 2018

The general aviation Teterboro Airport, situated in the Hasbrouck Heights, Bergen County area of New Jersey, may have to close owing to potential flooding brought about by "climate change and sea-level rise". Flooding of one foot by 2050 and three feet on or before 2100 is anticipated. That may come as a surprise as the nearest water to Teterboro is the Hackensack River (2km away) followed by the larger Hudson River (8km away). However, the airport is in the Hackensack Meadowlands, low lying wetlands.


  • A New York think tank has suggested the executive Teterboro Airport may have to close because of rising water levels;
  • It also suggested heavy expenditure is required on climate related protection for the main New York/New Jersey airports;
  • It wants to see USD50 billion invested on those airports over the next 30/40 years, on runways and improved rail access.

Teterboro, the only 'scheduled' flights from which come courtesy of the shared charter operator Tradewind Aviation, is owned and managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and operated by AFCO AVports, which has many such small general aviation (GA) airports in its portfolio. It was also one of the first privatised airports in the US, being operated under lease by Pan Am World Airways and then Johnson Controls, until 2000 when PANYNJ took it over.

That gives it, despite its location in an area that produces many bird strikes, and short 2,134m and 1,833m runways, a gravitas of sorts, alongside New York JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports and the potential for expansion there has been considered occasionally.

MAP - Teterboro Airport is in the New Jersey Meadowlands, 12 miles from Midtown Manhattan, which makes it very popular for private and corporate aircraftSource: Google Maps

Teterboro is famous as the airport which was the original emergency diversion airport in the mind of Captain Chesley Sullenberger III in Jan-2009 when US Airways flight 1549 lost both engines due to a bird strike while leaving LaGuardia Airport before he realised his only option was to "go in the Hudson".

The suggestion that Teterboro may have to close came from the Regional Plan Association (RPA), an urban research and advocacy organisation which "works to improve the prosperity, infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region".

That was not the only one of RPA's suggestions in its report. It also recommended upgrades to New York's other airports including expansions, enhanced transit connections and climate adaption. (La Guardia , JFK and Newark airports are all situated next to water; LaGuardia's runways end in the East River while JFK is in Jamaica Bay, one of its runways just two kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and Newark Airport abuts Newark Bay).

The report calls for upgrades totalling USD50.8 billion over the next 30 to 40 years including:

  • New capacity: Two new runways at JFK and one new runway at Newark;
  • Better transit connections: improved Airtrain access and a one-seat ride (i.e. no change of train) to JFK Airport from downtown, a new "front door" for Newark Airport which would give passengers access to the airport from PATH, NJTransit and Amtrak (all varieties of rail service), and an Airtrain alignment for LaGuardia Airport that would allow for connection to the number seven line at Willets Point as well as LIRR (Long Island Rail Road).

LEARN MORE about New York's rail to airport activity in the CAPA - Centre for Aviation Air-Rail Report released last year.

Making a quick comparison with actual and planned-for expenditure highlighted in the CAPA Global Airport Construction Database and JFK has USD2 billion for works through 2020 including terminal expansion and a new cargo terminal, LaGuardia is the recipient of USD4.2 billion, the bulk of it going on the new public-private central terminal development, while at Newark USD2.5 billion is being invested in terminal expansion and a new terminal. (Total USD8.7 billion).

Rich Barone, VP transportation, of Regional Plan Association, went out of his way to compare the New York airports with London Heathrow, admiring "the repeated investment in upgrading (surface) transit connections there", which is accurate. However, he also noted that UK authorities "are about to embark on an ambitious expansion of that airport", conveniently overlooking the fact it took them close to seventy years to make a decision.

Returning briefly to Teterboro, if it does close it will mark yet another closure of a predominately GA inner-city airport in a major US city. In Mar-2003 Meigs Field Airport in downtown Chicago was literally destroyed by Mayor Daley with no notice, to make way for a park. In Santa Monica, close to Los Angeles, the airfield there had its runway shortened to reduce jet aircraft usage and is under notice to close by 2029, returning 227 acres of aviation land to the city for eventual redevelopment, again probably as a park.