LINDEN, NJ — While larger airports such Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport may attract more attention, sometimes smaller places such as Linden Airport can get the job done better. When Polish President Andrzej Duda recently visited Linden, Linden Airport operator and pilot Paul Dudley said, people were a little worked up.
“We had the first state visit in the history of Linden when the president of Poland came here, and people were going crazy,” Dudley said on Friday, Oct. 1. “The president was coming because he happened to be here for the United Nations General Assembly. Being that he was already on this side of the pond, he had been invited by some of the organizations of the church here in Linden, and he accepted.
“Once a year, the United Nations convenes the General Assembly and it is a monstrous undertaking, because the …. member nations, the heads of state, all come for the General Assembly,” he continued. “You have the prime minister of England, president of France, president of Italy, President Biden — think of all the countries that belong to the United Nations. All of their heads of state come to New York to be at the General Assembly.”
Dudley said Linden Airport has a unique position because of its location, but he admits it is a security nightmare when Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions are in place.
“It’s bad enough when you have the Secret Service protecting one president. Imagine when they have to protect several hundred dignitaries who are the presidents of other countries,” Dudley said. “As part of the security arrangements, there are aviation restrictions put in place in the New York area. When these are in place, to get into New York City, you have to come through Linden Airport. Linden is a designated screening site. The TSA comes to Linden, and we provide a space for them and then they set up a whole screening operation here.
“Most people have no idea how important Linden is to the … economy,” he continued. “If you are a businessperson or a dignitary and you are going to fly into New York City and you’re coming from the west side of New Jersey, you cannot do that when restrictions are in place. By Linden being here, we are able to allow the system to continue to function and people to be able to travel into the city. Otherwise, they would not be able to do so.
“Every time there is a presidential visit in the New York area, or a U.N. General Assembly is in session, the flight restrictions are placed around New York City that require you to be screened before you can get into the city,” he added. “Linden Airport serves that purpose to keep the wheels of the economy turning, so to speak. That’s one of those little things that runs behind the scenes that most people don’t know about yet directly affects them.”
Dudley said that when presidents visit, restrictions must be even tighter.
“I’ve been doing this since Ronald Reagan was president. Every time a president comes to the New York area, restrictions need to be in place,” Dudley said. “The reason restrictions need to be in place is because you can’t just shut everything down — people’s livelihoods must go on. What we do is we provide a way for the security to be in place, yet people can still continue to have access to New York.
“They have a very tight net where there are actually fighter planes on station in the area, helicopters in the air … a whole centralized command post at air traffic control that monitors every single, solitary thing that flies,” he continued. “They know who it is, what it is, where it’s coming from and where it’s going. So, they can actually have this dome, if you would, over the airspace, which is a response to the terrorist threats that are always present.
“When you want to come into New York and you’re an executive or a company president and you’re landing at one of the heliports, normally, you fly directly to Manhattan,” Dudley added. “But now, once you get a certain distance, you have to speak to them on the radio, you have to have previously filed a flight plan specific to this activity. They already know who you are and where you’re going, because they’ve been expecting you. They send you to Linden Airport to be screened and, once you’re screened here at Linden, the FAA people and the TSA people that are here then communicate through the Defense Department, to allow the aircraft to leave Linden and fly and land in Manhattan. If anyone else was to try and head to Manhattan, they would be intercepted. They are serious about these things, if necessary, because of the threat level.”
Linden Airport also relieves traffic and reduces congestion from Newark Airport, serves local aircraft owners and serves as an exit off the aerial highway system.
“It’s what we’re here for,” said Dudley. “Part of my effort here is to do events. For example, we did the first outside graduation for the high school. Linden does a lot.”
Attorney Frank Capece praised Dudley for his ability to handle FAA regulations.
“Dealing with the FAA rules and regulations is like taking a course in high school trigonometry, but Paul is pretty adept in that,” said Capece on Tuesday, Oct. 5. “He’s quite good at it. He’s got a skill for this.”
Photos Courtesy of Paul Dudley