In the illusion trade, they call it misdirection. It's a form of deception where the attention of the audience is focused on one thing in order to distract attention from what is really happening.
The airlines' trade organization — the Air Transport Association (ATA) — has become particularly adept at misdirection. ATA continues to blame general aviation for air traffic control (ATC) delays in an attempt to change the tax system to the benefit of the airlines.
Consider ATA's July 2 news release, calling for the imposition of ground delays at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport and other New York-area satellite airports. ATA's carefully worded news release suggests that FAA-mandated ground delays at John F. Kennedy International, La Guardia, and Newark Liberty International airports don't apply to corporate aircraft flying from the area's satellite airports.
The only problem is, that's not true. When regional weather is bad, corporate aircraft flying out of Teterboro and other airports are subject to the same ground delays and ground stops as the airlines. They have been for years.
For example, on July 4 the FAA issued a ground delay affecting all aircraft departing Teterboro (TEB), Westchester County (HPN), Kennedy (JFK), and La Guardia (LGA) airports. It wasn't just the airlines that had to accept departure delays because of thunderstorms in the Northeast.
That's nothing new. There was a similar ground delay imposed on June 29 for all aircraft departing Teterboro (TEB), Westchester (HPN), Kennedy (JFK), La Guardia (LGA), Newark (EWR), and Philadelphia International (PHL) airports.
And it's not just those airports that are affected. Last year the FAA implemented the Airspace Flow Program (AFP), covering the northeastern United States, including New England, the mid-Atlantic region, and parts of Ohio and Michigan.
When weather or system volume constrains the number of aircraft that ATC can handle, any turbine-powered aircraft departing from any airport in the United States heading for any airport in the Northeast may be issued a ground delay.
Another example. On July 5, AOPA President Phil Boyer was attempting to fly from a GA airport south of Minneapolis to AOPA's home field in Frederick, Md., another GA airport located well west of the terminal airspace surrounding the airline hub airports of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI), Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), and Washington Dulles International (IAD). Because of thunderstorms in the Philadelphia-New York area, ATC issued him a three-and-half-hour ground delay.
"Regardless of what ATA wants you to think, every user of the National Airspace System feels the pain when severe weather limits the amount of traffic the system can handle," said Boyer. "And the biggest issue confronting the airspace around New York is the overwhelming number of airliners scheduled in and out of three hub airports.
"Corporate aircraft utilizing the area's satellite airports are routed under or around the paths flown by the airlines. And when that won't work, they sit on the ground, too."