Kudos Are Earned
I regularly bang on FAA for their treatment of NATCA's controllers, but when our aviation agency does something superb, they deserve to be given sufficient pats on the back.
I'm a writer who writes straight from the heart on any issue, and like a leaf being blown by the gusts of a variable Fall wind, I can be blown around just about any direction at any time. That is the underlying reason I want to cheer for FAA and DOT today after reading this on aviationweek.com:
Speaking to airline representatives before the scheduling meetings began, DOT Secretary Mary Peters said carriers are not being fair to passengers by knowingly scheduling far more flights than JFK can handle. Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell added that operations at JFK are up 20% this year, and "the bottom line here is that [JFK is] scheduled beyond capacity even in ideal weather." FAA is aiming for a limit of 80-81 operations per hour, 10-30 fewer than flights scheduled during peak hours this year.Hal-a-freakin'-lew-ya! It's about time FAA stands up to the Big Airline lobby to try and solve the problem that is at the very heart of the deteriorating level of service that all U.S. commercial air travelers must endure these days. Without question, it should be the FAA and NOT the airlines who determines how many pressurized tubes full of bodies are pushed into busy airports like JFK. If you leave it up to Corporate America, they'll overbook seats on non-existent flights into dangerously impacted airports, knowing they'll have no chance of getting or out of these fields anywhere CLOSE to on-time.
The aviationweek.com article by Adrian Schofield explains how FAA comes up with these "achievable" ops levels:
The proposed limit of 81 operations per hour in JFK's evening peak is based on the number of flights the airport routinely handled last summer, said Nancy LoBue, FAA's deputy assistant administrator for policy, planning and the environment. The proposed limit is realistic and "achievable," FAA officials said. FAA data show that JFK occasionally handled up to 90 operations an hour during June peak periods, and even hit 100 per hour for a very brief time on isolated days.Of course, you can easily expect that any reduction in inbound airliner traffic to any field would send the Air Transport Association (ATA) into a hissing fit:
ATA agrees that FAA's proposed limit is far too low. Capacity benchmarks established previously list JFK at 100 operations an hour. ATA President Jim May is opposed to any capping of flights at the airport. In a letter sent to Peters Oct. 23, May said the "unprecedented 20% reduction in operations is premature and unnecessary, and sets a level of operations significantly less than historical throughput delivered by FAA at JFK."It's not like FAA hasn't thrown ATA and the Big Airlines a bone here either:
FAA will initially request voluntary schedule cuts for JFK, but the agency says it will impose further cuts if the voluntary reductions are not enough.Anyone who believes the Big Airline lobby will voluntarily cut even one profit-generating flight into JFK will be dreaming. This is a classic Washington power struggle, where airline CEO's and high-paid lobbyists refuse to have the FAA tell them what to do under ANY circumstances.
But when it comes to shoving tin tubes full of Grandmas onto strips of congested pavement less then a minute apart, it HAS to be FAA that has the final say on operation levels. And if ATA doesn't like their decision, their member airlines can take their big fat Bush administration tax break and go away. I am sure it wouldn't take long for a start-up like Virgin America to jump into the void, thrilled to operate under the safety guidelines set forth by FAA.
Maybe they ought to let NATCA's controllers have a say in just how much "tin" they can push in a given hour into JFK.
Oh wait...that makes sense. Never mind.