Aviation Window Dressing
This article is currently on the front page of CNN.com: “Military Air Space to be Holiday Express Lane”
Ahead of the holiday travel crunch, President Bush ordered steps Thursday to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left passengers stranded. President Bush, accompanied by acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell, outlined a plan to reduce air traffic congestion on Thursday. The most significant change is that the Pentagon will open unused military airspace from Florida to Maine to create “a Thanksgiving express lane” for commercial airliners. It will be open next week for five days — Wednesday through Sunday — for the busiest days of Thanksgiving travel. Bush said the problems with delayed flights are “clear to anybody who’s been traveling. Airports are very crowded. Travelers are being stranded and flights are delayed, sometimes with a full load of passengers sitting on the runway for hours.
I can confidentally state, even though I’m only a small time private pilot, that this will have absolutely NO bearing on airport congestion whatsoever. The problem isn’t lack of space in the sky or the availability of routes. It all comes down to the airport environment being TOO crowded, and having TOO MANY flights scheduled.
Opening up new air traffic routes is as misleading as stating that the lack of direct routes is slowing air travel. The August 29th Time Magazine article stated these ridiculous assumptions, and I addressed it in my rebuttal. I can write these same words about today’s “routing fix” announcement:
Consider the air travel horror stories lately: Eight hours on the ground in New York. Feces rolling down the aisles on Continental. Northwest cancels half their daily flights. Do these anecdotes sound like they have ANYTHING to do with air traffic control? Nobody hates an airline when they’re actually moving through the sky.
We should invest the money in people, resources (such as ground radar,) and improvements in the LOCAL airport environments at our largest hubs. The TOWER is where air traffic controllers are overworked, overtaxed, and because of this have increased chances of errors. Granted I haven’t sat next to him or her, but I’d bet the controller sitting in a dark room in Denver Center or Salt Lake Center watching planes meander over the big square states has a far less stressful position than approach control into Chicago. Why are people being told, or sold, a false worry about the LEAST problematic and least dangerous part of our ATC system?
If airlines and airports still have 25 planes scheduled to arrive at 5pm, cramming them in and stacking them up over the hub won’t LAND them any faster.
As a commenter on the CNN story stated: This is just window dressing.
by James Van Dellen