Saturday, March 28, 2009

NextGen -- Picture This

I was just surfing the internet and found the Life magazine archives at Google Images.

Click here for a 1968 shot of LGA.

Tell me what NextGen is going to do for that.

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); 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.

(Emphasis added)

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. “

Check out the dates really, really carefully. Massive congestion -- 1968. Slot restrictions -- 1969. Do you still think technology will cure it ? That it will increase capacity ? Defy the laws of physics ? Then check out the date on this entry.

”Jun 1, 1969: The shifting of the New York common IFR room from a manual radar system to a computerized alphanumeric radar system further enhanced the traffic-handling capabilities of the New York terminal area. The semiautomated system permitted an aircraft equipped with a beacon transponder to provide the terminal controller automatically with information on its identity, altitude, range, and bearing. Under the old system, the controller could obtain an aircraft's altitude and identity only through voice contact with the aircraft's pilot. (See Jul 15, 1968.) “

A “computerized alphanumeric radar system“ (imagine how cool that sounded in 1969) didn’t ease the capacity delays at LGA (or anywhere else.) The High Density Rule did. Technology won’t increase runway capacity. Good policy will manage what capacity we have. If you want more runway capacity, build more runways.

Don Brown
March 28, 2009

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