Attempts By Carriers To Bend Time, Space Come Up Short
The airlines just don't
get it... or they chose not to, reports the Aircraft Owners and
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
"That's a surprising pronouncement coming from an airline
industry insider," responds 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
All it takes is simple logic to understand the issue, according
to AOPA. 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... nevermind FAA
regulations, Boyer said.
If it's not about the runways, Boyer counters, why did the
number of delayed flights at Atlanta drop three percent after the
addition of a new runway in 2006? And 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
"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
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 US airspace, AOPA notes.
In the simplest terms, however, all it takes is one number to
show airline passengers where the true problem lies: 59.
That's the number of aircraft scheduled to depart from Chicago's
O'Hare International Airport on June 1 in a 14-minute period,
beginning at 0800 local. Again -- that's not for the entire hour,
but for a mere 14 minutes.
The only way that can realistically happen, AOPA says, is in a
universe where the amount of concrete doesn't matter. But who needs
that pesky reality, when you're running an airline?