More runways are not answer to late flights

Tue, 11/27/2007 - 4:23pm
By: Letters to the ...

As an aviation professional with 26 years experience, my perspective on the crowded skies issue differs slightly from that of Mr. Robison.

Building costly additional runways is only a partial solution. The problem is not so much availability of concrete to land and depart but the fixed volume of airspace dedicated to Atlanta airport operations.

All arriving and departing aircraft must pass through this airspace to get to or leave from any runway.

Simply put, this volume is like a 10-pound bag — it holds 10 pounds of traffic. Schedule 12 pounds of traffic and delays can be expected.

Clouds, low visibility and the mix of large and small aircraft can also lead to greater spacing between aircraft, further reducing the amount of traffic able to occupy the fixed volume.

Yes, the Air Traffic Control system is aged. We need better technology for today’s traffic volume. Satellite-based surveillance and advanced onboard equipment will be able to locate an aircraft’s position to within a few feet and may be able to help controllers manage the traffic. This technology is coming, but not tomorrow or next week.

So what to do for now? To accommodate the fixed volume constraints of the airspace, implement reality-based scheduling between the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

This may involve slot allocation and reduction of planned overcapacity during peak periods. This has already been mandated at Chicago O’Hare and New York Kennedy airports.

Although this is a form of regulation in these de-regulated times, it may be what’s needed until the new technology arrives.

Barry S. Turkel

Riverdale, Ga.

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