The Internets and mainstream media are abuzz today with the “news” that FAA thinks there will be more then your average number of airline delays this summer due to WX. With NOAA predicting a powerful hurricane season, the release this week out of WDC tells us our FAA is (a) hedging their bets, or (b) playing a little game of CYA.
It is usually a pretty safe bet that the major hubs will be impacted during the stormy winter months, this we know. What we didn't really know is that FAA expects even MORE delays this summer, due to more then your usual number of thunderstorms. They must not have gotten the memo from the Bush White House that Global Warming – thought by legions of actual scientists to be at the source of these more powerful storms – is all horse crap.
The Feds' release shows that they have this completely under control:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expanding an air traffic program that reduces flight delays during the peak summer season. The Airspace Flow Program, as it is known, gives airlines the option of either accepting delays for flights scheduled to fly through storms or flying longer routes to safely maneuver around them.There you have it, “Plan A” from the FAA for fixing that nagging problem of forcing passengers to be held hostage in pressurized tubes on the tarmac for several hours. But this release begs me to ask this question:
The agency successfully launched the program last year at seven locations in the Northeast. On bad weather days at major airports in the region, delays fell by 9 percent compared to the year before. Cost savings for the airlines and the flying public from the program are estimated to be $100 million annually.
“This is a much better way to handle summer traffic,” said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “If your flight isn’t scheduled to fly through bad weather you don’t have to sit on the tarmac. If it is, your airline has the choice of taking a delay shared evenly by all the affected flights or flying around the storm.”
Before last year, severe storms often forced the FAA to ground flights at affected airports, penalizing flights not scheduled to fly through them. This program allows the FAA to manage traffic fairly and efficiently by identifying only those flights scheduled to fly through storms and giving them estimated departure times. In turn, the airlines have greater flexibility in planning schedules with less disruption for passengers.
This summer, the number of Airspace Flow Program locations — chosen for their combination of heavy traffic and frequent bad weather — will be expanded from seven to 18. The additional locations will ease delays for passengers flying through the South and Midwest, as well as those on transcontinental flights.
“Dynamic” programs will be introduced in other areas to target storms with surgical precision as they develop and move. Airspace Flow Programs will also be used in conditions not related to weather, such as severe congestion near major cities.
Airspace Flow Programs were conceived by the FAA two years ago and developed in close coordination with the airline industry. On bad weather days, agency and airline officials collaborate to decide where and when the programs should be put in place.
In another development, the agency rolled out a new software program that ensures airports impacted by bad weather receive the maximum number of flights that can safely fly to them. During storms, arrival slots often open up due to delayed or canceled flights. The new software program, called Adaptive Compression, automatically fills those slots with the next available flight. The software tool, which was launched in March, reduces delays, saving time and money for the airlines and passengers.
But at least they are doing something to fix a major problem...so for that, the FAA gets kudos from me.