Wall Street What ???

I was reading a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning -- Fixing the Unfriendly Skies -- and I stumbled on this lit bit of non-logic.

”Since 1969 when the High Density Rule put a limit on LaGuardia's flights, all three airports have been subject to limited operations each hour, causing constant delays.“

Having tried to write a few editorials I’m not going to give them a hard time about the oversimplification of the subject but logic is another thing. “... subject to limited operations each hour, causing constant delays. “ I can’t follow that. Can you ? Is it possible that they’re thinking the airlines schedule whatever they want but the FAA will only let so many land per hour ? Please tell me that isn’t what they’re thinking.

Despite whatever the Wall Street Journal editorial board may be thinking, the reality is that limiting the number of operations per hour is the only thing that keeps LGA, JFK and EWR running anywhere close to on time.

It was true in 1969...

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

”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.

(emphasis added)

...and it’s still true today. After being badly burned by record delays, even the Bush Administration was forced to face reality.

U.S. Acts to Ease Crunch at New York-Area Airports

Published: December 19, 2007

”....as they announced a combination of agreements and orders intended to eliminate last summer’s epic delays.

At a briefing here at the Federal Aviation Administration’s strategic command center, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters outlined the results of weeks of negotiations with airlines that produced a painstakingly pruned schedule during peak hours at Kennedy International Airport. This summer there will be a cap of 82 to 83 scheduled flights per hour, plus four unscheduled flights, at the busiest times of day. During some peak hours last summer, 95 flights were scheduled, and more than 105 would have been scheduled at those times next summer without this agreement, officials said. “

And just as sort of a post script (so I don’t have to figure out how to work it in), here’s another reality check. Just in case you don’t think that folks really recognize the core problem. I just stumbled on it while researching this piece.

City Sues to Block Increased La Guardia Flights

Published: June 15, 2000

As dozens of airlines take advantage of a new federal law easing restrictions on the number of flights in and out of New York City's airports, city officials say La Guardia Airport could be overwhelmed by delays and congestion and have filed suit to try to curb increased air traffic there.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and the Queens borough president, Claire Shulman, filed suit on Tuesday against the Department of Transportation in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The suit contends that the government must conduct an environmental impact study before allowing the airlines to add what city officials say could be as many as 500 additional flights a day in and out of La Guardia by the end of the year.

Don Brown
August 13, 2008


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