Thursday, July 19, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- July 19

You’d be forgiven if you thought this history lesson was from today’s date; 7-19-07. It isn’t, of course. It’s from almost 30 years ago. (Whoops...make that almost 40 years ago.)

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Jul 19, 1968: Air traffic congestion reached critical proportions when a total of 1,927 aircraft in the vicinity of New York City were delayed in taking off or landing, some for as long as three hours. The jam, which spread to other major transportation hubs, was exacerbated by PATCO's decision to conduct a slowdown. (See Jul 3, 1968, and Jan 15, 1969.) At the root of the problem, however, was the inability of an inadequate and long-neglected air traffic control and airport system to accommodate the heavy tourist season traffic. The jam was symptomatic of conditions that forced FAA to develop schedule restrictions for certain airports. (See Jun 1, 1969.) ”

I just think I will (see June 1, 1969.) But before I do, a comment. Imagine if the controllers of today ran a slow down. As we used to joke back when I was a controller, “We’d have to advertise it. Otherwise nobody would know.” Today’s “slowdown” is brought to you by your friendly FAA and the 800 lb. gorilla in aviation -- the airlines. Watch this. Jump to June 1, 1969.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

Jun 1, 1969: In response to growing congestion, FAA implemented a rule placing quotas on instrument flight rule (IFR) operations at five of the nation's busiest airports between 6 a.m. and midnight. The rule assigned the following hourly quotas:

Kennedy International, 80 (70 for air carriers and supplementals; 5 for scheduled air taxis; 5 for general aviation);

(Chicago)O'Hare, 135 (115 for air carriers and supplementals; 10 for scheduled air taxis; 10 for general aviation);

La Guardia, 60 (48 for air carriers and supplementals; 6 for scheduled air taxis; 6 for general aviation);

Newark, 60 (40 for air carriers and supplementals; 10 for scheduled air taxis; 10 for general aviation);

Washington National, 60 (40 for air carriers and supplementals; 8 for scheduled air taxis; 12 for general aviation).

The rule did not charge extra sections of scheduled air carrier flights (such as hourly shuttle flights) against the established quotas, except at Kennedy; this airport, however, was permitted 10 extra air carrier operations per hour during the peak traffic period between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. IFR flights were required to make advanced reservations for each operation. Pilots obtained IFR reservations by contacting the Airport Reservation Office (established May 30, 1969) in Washington, D.C., or any FAA flight service station. Aircraft under visual flight rules (VFR) made arrival reservations in the air when approximately 30 miles from their intended destination. Departure reservations for such aircraft were handled by the air traffic control facilities serving these five high density airports. Originally implemented for a six-month period, this "High Density Rule" was subsequently extended to Oct 25, 1970. On that date, the hourly limitations on operations were suspended at Newark, where peak operations during fiscal 1970 had averaged 18 less than the assigned quota of 60. At the same time, the quotas were extended for another year at the other four airports. In taking this action, FAA noted that the percentage of aircraft delays at the five airports had decreased substantially since the rule was put into effect.

On Aug 24, 1971, FAA published an amendment extending the High Density Rule until Oct 25, 1972. Flight limitations remained unchanged at La Guardia and Washington National, but at O'Hare and Kennedy the quotas were now in effect only between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The relaxation was due in part to a decline in aviation activity during a general downturn in the U.S. economy.

An amendment published on Oct 25, 1972, extended the High Density Rule until the same date in 1973, when another amendment was published giving it an indefinite extension. At the same time, FAA eliminated the requirement that pilots operating under visual flight rules at all five airports file a flight plan. FAA believed this requirement was no longer necessary since these airports were now operating under the terminal control area concept, which required pilots to establish radio communications with the tower and receive permission to enter the terminal airspace. (See Mar 23, 1978, Nov 3, 1980, and Mar 6, 1984.)

(edited for emphasis and clarity)

Did you notice that ATL (Atlanta - Hartsfield) wasn’t on that list ? You know, the busiest airport in the world ? Or number 3 (DFW) or 4 (LAX) or 5 (LAS) ? And while we’re here, just in case you’re curious, LGA is number 19 and DCA is number 41.

(Check it out. You can get the entire listing in the FAA Administrator’s Fact Book. I used the Dec. 2006 version.)

I did not pull those two airports (DCA and LGA) out of a hat.

And if one of you guys that works for the people that buy ink by the barrel doesn’t figure it out...I’ll have to write the story myself and charge you for it. We know what works. The FAA just won’t implement it (unless they’re told to by somebody more powerful than the airlines.) (Wink-Wink)

Here’s a hint. Two words. Concrete and Concrete.

Don Brown
July 19, 2007

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