I find it fascinating to watch people attempt to control what is often beyond control. If only a non-profit, non-government entity was in control of air traffic, the ills of airline travel would magically disappear. Or so Congress — and the airlines – would like us to believe.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), between May 2016 and April 2017, 5,624,650 airline operations were conducted at U.S. airports.
80.28% or 4,515,517 operations were completed on time. When you stop and think about all the variables that go into a safe and timely flight, that is remarkable.On the other side of the coin, 1,109,133 flights were delayed.
The top three reasons for delayed flights are: Air Carrier (44.29%); Weather (29.47%); and Volume (12.58%).
None of us has any control of weather, obviously. So those 326,899 delayed flights were simply the victim of Mother Nature.
BTS defines an Air Carrier Delay as “within the airline’s control (e.g. maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading, fueling, etc.).” So 491,191 flights were delayed as a result of the airline’s action… or inaction.
And how many of us have looked at an airline schedule display in a terminal and found more flights scheduled to depart than the airport has capacity to safely handle? That’s another 139,503 flights delayed due to trying to stuff 10 pounds of crap into a five-pound bucket.
While I’m no airline executive, I’d suggest two things before spinning off ATC.
First, disperse flight schedules more evenly across a wider time frame. This would help alleviate volume delays and make it easier to accommodate and reduce air carrier delays.
Second, I’d push for all it’s worth to lay 30 more miles of concrete in the form of runways.
Back in 2011, a New York Times article stated, “In the first half of 2011, the region’s airspace — defined as the big three airports, plus Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, which caters to corporate jets, and Philadelphia International Airport — handled 12% of all domestic flights but accounted for nearly half of all delays in the nation.”
Airports will forever be the choke point for operations. Each runway is allowed one aircraft at a time. More runways equal more aircraft. Where you put those runways is a completely different discussion.
And I doubt many people like the idea of burying the New Jersey turnpike east of Newark into a tunnel to make way for a new parallel runway. Fewer still would like the idea of filling the East River and Flushing Bay to add another Runway 13/31.
We can control — to a certain degree — where we put runways. Just 30 miles of concrete, strategically located, will do far more to alleviate system strain than standing up an entirely new ATC organization.
And best of all, that would allow the GA community to be on the same side of a funding fight as our air carrier siblings.
Let’s control what we can control.