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Airlines are in concrete denial

The airlines just don't get it. Or they chose not to. The New York Times this Sunday quoted Air Transport Association spokesman David Castelveter saying, "You can have all the concrete you want — it's when you're up in the air that you have a space problem."

"That's a surprising pronouncement coming from an airline industry insider," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Congress, the FAA, and the entire aviation community have long recognized that runway capacity is the major factor limiting the ability to deal with the exploding numbers of airline flights at hub airports."

Simply put, there's a lot more room for aircraft in the three dimensions of airspace than the two dimensions of a limited number of runways. Pick any spot in the airspace, and you can have an aircraft at 1,000 feet, another at 2,000 feet, a third at 3,000 feet, etc. Pick any spot on the runway, and you can have exactly one aircraft there under the laws of physics and FAA regulations, Boyer said.

If it's not about the runways, why did the number of delayed flights at Atlanta drop 3 percent after the addition of a new runway in 2006?

If it's not the runways, then why is more runway capacity the critical element of the FAA's Operational Evolution Partnership to meet current and future air traffic demands?

"Since fiscal year 2000, FAA has provided about $1.7 billion in AIP (Airport Improvement Program) funding to increase capacity and decrease delays at the most congested airports in the country. These 13 new runway projects have provided these airports with the potential to accommodate 1.6 million more annual operations," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said in testimony before Congress in May.

And if it's about the airspace, why didn't airline delays decrease noticeably in 2005 when the FAA doubled the amount of airspace available to airliners? That was the first year of RVSM (reduced vertical separation minima) in domestic U.S. airspace.

If you need any further evidence of the capacity of runways, look at the schedule below for one tiny segment of time at Chicago O'Hare International and ask yourself, how can 59 aircraft possibly arrive and depart in 14 minutes, unless it's in a universe where the amount of concrete doesn't matter.

Scheduled airline flights
Chicago O'Hare International (ORD)
June 1, 2007 — 8:00 p.m. to 8:14 p.m.

Carrier

Flight Num.

Sched. Arr. Time

Sched. Dep. Time

Origin

Dest.

OO

5446

 

2000

ORD

OKC

OO

5519

 

2000

ORD

FAR

OO

5869

 

2000

ORD

CID

OO

6781

 

2000

ORD

AUS

UA

129

 

2000

ORD

LAX

UA

343

 

2000

ORD

OMA

UA

543

 

2000

ORD

SFO

UA

597

 

2000

ORD

MSP

UA

959

 

2000

ORD

DEN

UA

1161

 

2000

ORD

BOI

UA

1567

 

2000

ORD

LAS

MQ

4044

 

2000

ORD

BNA

MQ

4307

 

2000

ORD

LSE

MQ

4504

 

2000

ORD

CMH

UA

661

2000

 

CMH

ORD

UA

1112

2000

 

MSP

ORD

MQ

4337

2000

 

BNA

ORD

MQ

4370

2000

 

MSN

ORD

AA

1470

2000

 

SFO

ORD

NW

145

 

2001

ORD

MSP

UA

855

2001

 

LAX

ORD

UA

473

 

2002

ORD

SNA

OO

5455

2003

 

MKE

ORD

OO

5543

 

2005

ORD

SPI

UA

87

 

2005

ORD

SAN

UA

651

 

2005

ORD

MSY

MQ

4084

 

2005

ORD

TYS

MQ

4345

 

2005

ORD

PIT

AA

697

 

2005

ORD

LAX

OO

5475

2005

 

LNK

ORD

UA

545

2005

 

BOS

ORD

UA

870

2005

 

SFO

ORD

MQ

4012

2005

 

PIT

ORD

MQ

4130

2005

 

EVV

ORD

MQ

4390

2005

 

RST

ORD

MQ

4398

2005

 

GRR

ORD

MQ

4435

2005

 

CID

ORD

MQ

4458

2005

 

DTW

ORD

UA

1538

2006

 

PHX

ORD

OO

6425

 

2006

ORD

BZN

OO

5534

 

2007

AZO

ORD

OO

5424

 

2010

ORD

IAH

OO

5499

 

2010

ORD

SGF

OO

5867

 

2010

ORD

SAT

UA

653

 

2010

ORD

SJC

MQ

3937

 

2010

ORD

SGF

AA

426

 

2010

ORD

PHL

AA

1953

 

2010

ORD

STL

US

7

2010

 

PHX

ORD

MQ

3931

2010

 

OMA

ORD

MQ

4248

2010

 

ROC

ORD

MQ

4384

2010

 

SDF

ORD

MQ

4392

2010

 

JFK

ORD

UA

1539

2011

 

MCO

ORD

OO

6776

2013

 

CID

ORD

AA

2364

2013

 

DFW

ORD

YV

7205

2014

 

GRB

ORD

YV

7165

2014

 

RDU

ORD

UA

254

2014

 

DEN

ORD

August 28, 2007

H.R.2881 the way to pay for aviation fixes

The House FAA funding bill (H.R.2881) is the right way to pay for upgrading airports and the air traffic control system, AOPA said in a letter published in The Washington Post.

Responding to an editorial, AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote, "The fuel tax is an efficient, progressive way for general aviation to pay. The more pilots fly, the more they pay.

"The airlines are not interested in fairness. They're interested in reducing costs so they can increase profits for their shareholders. General aviation is the only player at the table agreeing to pay more to help modernize the air traffic control system."

The editorial unfortunately bought the airline's and FAA's contention that current taxes are "unfair."

But the newspaper did note that the "airlines schedule too many flights at peak times from hub airports."

Said Boyer, "Everyone in aviation agrees that air traffic control must be modernized. But new technology will not address the two main causes of airline delays: weather and too many aircraft using too few runways."

H.R.2881 would "give the FAA the money it needs to modernize and make needed investments for air transportation across the country," he wrote. AOPA is reaching out to editorial boards across the country to explain the facts about FAA funding and airline delays.

The Chicago Tribune and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for instance, both ran AOPA's letter to the editor in response to an op-ed piece by Jim May, president of the Air Transport Association.

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