Sunday, January 13, 2008

FAA Can't Win
for Losing


Not a day goes by when we fail to hear the cries, moans and whining of the flying public complaining about flight delays in and out of our large cities. I have to throw myself into that group too, it can be very frustrating flying the airlines these days.

Our FAA has been trying to solve the congestion problem by avoiding to build new airports and more runways, without much success. So on December 19th of 2007, they announced the first overhaul of jet routes along the Eastern seaboard in decades. In a nutshell, instead of funneling all traffic off the end of the runways and out over the least populated part of the departure zone, they now would let jets fan out in all directions immediately after launching to increase takeoff capacity.

That's a great idea...on paper, but it looks like quite a few of the people underneath those new departure routes are screaming bloody murder about increased noise. Aero-News Network gets it right on when they make the point that these complainers are also the same people complaining about flight delays.

But one high profile politician goes way, WAY too far off the deep end with a statement on the situation, published both on ANN and AP:
In Elizabeth, N.J., the changes will mean that some planes will fly straight over the center of the city. "The FAA plan will do more harm to the city of Elizabeth than any terrorist incident," said Mayor Chris Bollwage.
Are you kidding me? This is clearly lips moving before brain engaging, because as ANN also points out, EWR has some haunting history with terrorism:
How soon some forget that United Airlines Flight 93 departed Newark Liberty International Airport on September 11, 2001... her crew and passengers soon murdered at the hands of real terrorists.
AP details some of the heat FAA is taking over this plan:
At least 12 lawsuits have been filed so far in an attempt to stop the plan. Congress ordered the Government Accountability Office to examine the FAA's method for choosing the new routes. Top lawmakers from several states have demanded changes. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., threatened to block Senate confirmation of acting FAA administrator Robert Sturgell if the agency doesn't halt implementation.
A group calling itself the Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning has been established to fight the new jet routes, and a visit to their web site showed the following:
The FAA has developed an airspace redesign plan [PDF here] that will re-route flight paths in the New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia regions over several communities in Connecticut and New York. The plan is intended to reduce flight delays at regional airports. But it was developed without undergoing the approved review process for airspace plans. In fact, the FAA violated the federal charter governing environmental review, failed to consider the impact on affected communities, and has created serious concerns about air and ground safety, environmental impact, and quality of life in our communities.
So with the ATC staffing crisis now in "emergency" status according to NATCA, the funding debacle stalled in Congress because Bush refuses to back down from getting a tax break for his airline CEO buddies, and NextGen still a fable without an end, now FAA has opened a completely new can of worms with their redesigned jet routes. I guess this is the kind of government we get, from the administration that brought us Katrina and the Iraq occupation.

Is it 01.20.09 yet?