Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And the Winner Is...

If you’ll remember, in “Group Think”, I asked for thoughts on what the FAA would do to make sure they could announce success in curbing delays over the Thanksgiving holiday.

”Will they blame it on the weather ? Will they just say it would have been worse if the President hadn’t acted ? Will they cook the books ? What do you think ? You can send me your guess if you’d like.”

The winner is a tie. Several people guessed “all of the above.”

I have to be honest, it looks like the FAA (and the President) dodged a bullet on this one. I’ve got a story or two to tell but getting the data to back them up would be difficult if not impossible. The FAA controls the data.

It appears that General Aviation (GA) took a big hit. While the delays at the major New York metro airports (EWR, LGA and JFK) seemed to be less than an hour, I’m told the departure delays to the surrounding GA airports (TEB, HPN, FRG, MMU) were running up to 2, 3 and even 4 hours.

The arrivals into New York kept the holding patterns in constant use but they moved down through the stacks with few apparent problems. And yes, one of those holding patterns was in the now-famous “express lanes” -- at least at some point in time.

It will be interesting to see if any of the holding pattern delays make it into the news. Controllers used to write the data down, which made it a whole lot easier to remember. It’s all automated now so controllers don’t take note of the holding times like they used to. You might think that’s a good thing and in most aspects I guess it is. It’s just the (ex)safety rep. in me that makes me question whether being less aware of how long an airplane has been in a holding pattern is a good thing.

Don Brown
November 27, 2007

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