Proponents of the Concorde jet won a minor and probably temporary victory yesterday when a U.S. District Court Judge in New York ruled that the supersonic plane could begin test landings at New York's Kennedy Airport in 10 days.
Judge Milton J. Pollack's 40-page decision over turned a 17-month-old ban against Concorde landings at Kennedy as "discriminatory and unfair." The decision charged that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which issued the ban in March, 1976, and extended it indefinitely earlier this year, has been "reploughing old ground" in extending the ban for further testing of the jet's impact on the environment.
The Port Authority, which owns and operates Kennedy International Airport, reacted immediately to the decision. Chairman Alan Sagner issued a statement saying the authority would immediately appeal Pollack's decision and would request a delay in implementing the decision until an appeals court has ruled on the matter.
Yesterday's skirmish between Pollack and the Port Authority was a near-exact replay of an earlier courtroom battle over the Anglo-French commerical jet's landing right. On May 11, Pollack overturned the ban on the narrow grounds that the federal government had supermacy over the Port Authority on the matter of Concorde landing rights.
A federal appellate court overruled Pollack, returning the case to his court for rehearing.
The Concorde flies faster than sound and makes the trip from London or Paris to Washington in four hours, roughly half the time of other commercial jets. It has been landing at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia since May 1976, when then-Secretary of Transportation William Coleman approved a 16-month testing period for the plane.
Dulles is owned by the federal government, so Coleman's decision meant the noisy jets could land there. Half of the residents in the Dulles area "approved" of Concorde service after seven months of the jet landings, according to a Federal Aviation Administrative survey.
The Concorde is a joint venture of the British and French governments, who have built 16 of the Jets at a total cost of $3 billion.
Both French Presidente Valery Giscard d'Estaing and British Prime Minister James Callaghan have pressured President Carter to intervene in the landing-rights dispute, since the ban on landing at Kenndy International Airport has prevented the Concordes from flying lucrative New York-Europe routes. Currently only nine of the jets are flying, and the British and French airlines that own them opened to the jets.
But public opposition of New Yorkers to the Concorde for noise reasons, including a 1976 "drive-in" protest at Kennedy when 2,000 cars brought traffic there to a halt, has so far kept the Carter Administration from intervening in what it says is a local matter. The Concorde has never landed at Kennedy airport.
New York Mayor Abraham Beame issued a statement yesterday calling the court decision to allow landings "regrettable." The mayor's statement said, "The people of the city . . . should not be used as guinea pigs to test the harmful effects of the Concorde. . . ."
British and French airlines issued statements expressing cautious pleasure.
"I think maybe everybody has more of a wait-and-see attitude about the whole thing this time," said a spokesman for Air France.
Airline spokesmen said the planes could begin landing at Kennedy on a commercial basis in a month, should the lifting of the ban be upheld.