FAA revamps air traffic rules

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today set up wide-ranging, ambitious and controversial new rules and regulations to help reduce delays, fuel consumption, aircraft emissions and noise around some of the east coast’s busiest airports.The FAA studied four alternatives over the course of nine years before settling on a plan known as the Integrated Airspace Alternative.  The FAA said that the Integrated Airspace plan will alter the structure that now exists over the New York — LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International — as well as Newark Liberty International and Philadelphia International airports.  These airports were targeted because by 2011, they are expected to handle 15-20% of the nation’s air traffic and have to date ranked as the most delayed in the nation, the FAA said.  Basically the new plan will combine high-altitude and low-altitude airspace to create more efficient arrival and departure routes. This concept will improve reduce delays and maintain safety at the same time. The change calls for new flight patterns over five states and new procedures that will affect more than 15 FAA facilities. 

Operational Benefits of the Integrated Airspace Plan

·          When aircraft are more efficiently directed to and from the major airports in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, the FAA estimates a 20% reduction in airport delays over a five year period – the estimated time it will take to complete the implementation.

·          The redesigned airspace will save approximately 12 million minutes of delay annually. Since the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas will handle a great deal of the nation’s air traffic, the inefficiencies addressed in this plan could yield up to $9 billion dollars in benefits to air carriers, passengers, and local businesses in 2011.

·          The plan also reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Once completely implemented, it is expected to reduce annual operating costs (largely fuel consumption) by $248 million and severe weather delay costs by another $37 million.

·          The FAA predicts that more than one half million fewer people would be exposed to noise under this plan than if we do nothing at all. 

The FAA said it did extensive analysis and held more than 120 public meetings in five states throughout the environmental process. The airspace redesign involved a 31,000-square-mile area over New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut with a population of 29 million residents. Twenty-one airports were included in the study.  Air traffic congestion nationwide is expected to cost $46 billion to the nation’s economy in just three years. That figure includes the estimated costs to airlines and passengers, loss of service to people who wish to travel, and more than 200,000 lost jobs in aviation and other industries.Reducing delays have been a sore spot for the FAA and airlines this summer. The agency recently noted that flight delays are up 19% from where they were last summer but if not for two of the Administration’s high-tech software packages things could be much worse. Between April and July, these technologies reduced delays by more than 863,000 minutes saving  airlines about $35 million a year in fuel and other operational expenses.     

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