8:12 PM

AOPA's Explanation
of Airline Delays

We pilots look to AOPA for much of the important information that we need to keep flying. Their new web site delivers that 411 with beauty and ease, but as you peel back the layers on the new aopa.org, underneath the fundamental services end of the site lies some serious journalism, much of it written by their long-time writer, Warren Morningstar. [Full disclosure: I have never even met Warren, I just like his spot-on writing style]

A great deal of Warren's writing can be found on their Government Advocacy page, including two very good articles explaining all you need to know to sort out the current rash of airline delays. So since I'm going to be on the road much of this week, here is part one of Warren's reporting, verbatim from aopa.org:

Even the White House blames the airlines
By Warren D. Morningstar

The White House and the Department of Transportation announced Sept. 27 that they were taking "new steps" to tackle "aviation congestion and delays" in New York and across the nation. But there's less there than meets the eye, according to House transportation leaders.

"The administration's proposal contains a good deal of talking and planning, but little action to address the delay problem and help consumers in the short term," said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn).

"While the airlines have consistently tried to blame general aviation for their delay problems, the White House did finally acknowledge that airlines themselves were, in fact, a significant factor," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The administration's fact sheet said that the Department of Transportation has started a process to "help the busiest airports adopt new policies to efficiently address chronic airline over-scheduling, which leads to long lines and delays on the tarmac."

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the Transportation Committee, echoed that assessment by saying, "The administration needs to put the brakes on airline over-scheduling at our most congested airports. We must recognize the need for additional runways and new airports."

The administration also announced the formation of the New York Aviation Rulemaking Committee (NYARC) that will "explore market-based mechanisms and other options for addressing airspace congestion and flight delays in the New York area."

But the announcement wasn't even public before the airlines attacked it. The Air Transport Association sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, objecting to congestion pricing and other market-based mechanisms that would "artificially constrain" demand.

ATA called congestion pricing a tax, and said neither the DOT nor the FAA had the authority to impose a tax.

The administration also accused Congress of failing to act on its FAA funding proposal (which included user fees and huge tax increases for general aviation), suggesting lawmakers had to accept some blame for chronic airline delays.

The leaders of the Transportation Committee took umbrage with that.

"This administration put forward an extremely controversial financing proposal for which there was absolutely no consensus," Oberstar, aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), and aviation subcommittee senior member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a joint Sept. 27 statement.

"The administration's controversial funding proposal has directly contributed to the delay in passing legislation reauthorize the FAA.... [It] failed completely to hold the airlines responsible for what we are now told are 'scheduling practices that are at times out of line with reality.'

"It is the Bush administration that is once again out of line with reality." They said that "lack of oversight" and "failure to use statutory authority" by the administration has played a part in the suffering of airline passengers today.

During a press conference, the Transportation Committee leaders noted that their FAA funding bill (H.R.2881, which has passed the House) would provide $1 billion more for air traffic control modernization (NextGen) than the administration's proposal, and $4 billion more for airports.
Stay tuned later this week for part two, and remember to pass this post around by emailing it to your friends and family via the cute little envelope icon right below the post. We need everyone visiting aopa.org daily right now to keep this fight going. And if you are not AOPA, what the hell is your excuse? Be part of the team that defeats user fees and join AOPA here.

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