Wednesday, August 20, 2008

“Free Flight” Found

The good old New York Times. I should have known to look in the "nations’ newspaper of record" first. It’s even written by our old friend, ace reporter Matthew Wald.

”The F.A.A., famous for missing deadlines for various improvements, is not saying when free flight will be fully implemented; in fact, David R. Hinson, the administrator, says it is not yet possible to say just what the system will look like when it is all done. But it has already begun “

For those that were still in grammar school, David Hinson was the Administrator from 1993 to 1996. And that was back before we’d become too familiar with saying "a billion dollars."

”A recent study for NASA estimated that by 2005, free flight could save the airlines nearly $4 billion a year. Bigger than the savings to airlines, but a little harder to measure, are the savings for passengers. The value of a traveler's time varies, of course. But a recent study by Daniel Brand, a consultant and the chairman of the transportation research board of the National Academy of Science, suggests that for a planeload of people it can run well over $100 a minute.“

$4 billion a year ! And that was back when gas was $1.46 a gallon -- for premium. The airlines must be saving so much money by now that they’re just giving away tickets. Passengers must be saving so much time by now that I bet they’re arriving before they took off.

And here’s one of those technical thingies for controllers;

”Also likely to come soon is letting planes climb as fast as they are engineered for, instead of at the standard speed that traffic managers prefer. Mr. Hinson said that planes flying below 10,000 feet were now generally limited to 288 miles per hour, but should be climbing around 380 m.p.h. “

How about it boys ? Help a feeble-minded old man out. They callin’ y’all managers instead of controllers now ? How about the 250 knots below 10,000 rule ? Has that gone away like those old, antiquated airways ?

Just in case anyone thinks I’m poking fun at Mr. Wald...he just passes along the information. That doesn’t mean he believes it. Take a look at something a little closer to today -- and the truth.

Despite F.A.A.’s Flight Limits, Airport Delays Worsen

The acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration said in an interview on Monday that while the new steps had helped at Kennedy and in some circumstances Newark, they had fallen short at La Guardia, which he said was still too busy.

“That airport can’t handle 81 operations an hour,” said the acting administrator, Robert A. Sturgell, referring to the limit for takeoffs and landings that his agency now imposes. “It has never handled 81,” he said, adding that further reductions would be needed.

In the first half of 2008, the F.A.A. recorded 164 delays of 15 minutes or more per thousand landings or takeoffs at La Guardia, up from 105 for the first half of 2007, meaning that the number of flights delayed in the air traffic system rose by more than half. (The statistics do not count delays because of mechanical problems, late-arriving crew and other factors).

It was “Free Flight” for my generation. It’s NextGen for the next one. There will be a new lie for the generation after that.

Don Brown
August 20, 2008

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