Saturday, August 25, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- August 25

This history lesson will be just a little different. First, we’ll start off in last March. On March 23, 2007 the FAA issued a press release with this sentence.

”Airspace delays are virtually eliminated and route flexibility is enhanced.”

You might want to ask yourself, what -- exactly -- are “airspace delays” ? Whatever they are, I’m sure we’re all for eliminating them. Right ? Don’t be so sure.

The FAA is redesigning the airspace surrounding the New York Metropolitan area. That could be a good thing or a bad thing -- depending on how many airplanes are routed over your house. Whichever it is, it isn’t the first time airspace has been redesigned and it won’t “eliminate” delays.

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

”Aug 25, 1988: FAA announced changes to the Expanded East Coast Plan because of numerous complaints of increased noise by New Jersey residents. Changes to the EECP included rerouting Newark westbound departures from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (See Feb 12, 1987, and Mar 11, 1991.) ”

The Expanded East Coast Plan was a previous “redesign” of the airspace around the New York area. As the name implies, it changed the entire East coast in an attempt to ease delays. I’m guessing that you can figure out that -- even if it worked -- fixing something in air traffic control doesn’t mean it stays fixed. The plain and simple truth is that the National Airspace System should always be in a constant state of repair. Modernization of equipment and redesign (I prefer to think of it as updating) of airspace should be a continuous process.

Having said all that (and there is so much more I could say about it), what caught my eye in today’s history lesson is the next part. When it says, “See... Mar 11, 1991”, sometimes, it pays to actually do that.

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

”Mar 11, 1991: FAA began a series of hearings in New Jersey to obtain public comment on the noise effects of air traffic changes under the Expanded East Coast Plan (EECP), which had been implemented in phases between Feb 1987 and Mar 1988 (see Aug 25, 1988). The meetings reflected strong citizen discontent with the EECP. On Jun 28, FAA announced a contract with PRC, Inc., to assist in developing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the effects of New Jersey flight patterns revised under the EECP. In Oct 1992, Congress acted to freeze the pay levels of certain FAA employees involved with the project until the final impact statement was completed...”

(emphasis added)

The next time somebody wants you to believe that Congress can’t act -- that they are powerless -- I hope you’ll remember that little tidbit. The next time that somebody wants you to believe that citizens are powerless -- I hope you’ll come back and read this. And the next time somebody tries to tell you that solving airline delays is simple -- I hope you’ll remember it just ain’t so.

Don Brown
August 25, 2007

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