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Port Authority reveals recommendations for reducing flight delays at JFK

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced recommendations to reduce flight delays and prepare for future air traffic growth in the New York metropolitan region. In stark contrast to the Federal Aviation Administration`s (FAA) proposal to…

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced recommendations to reduce flight delays and prepare for future air traffic growth in the New York metropolitan region. In stark contrast to the Federal Aviation Administration`s (FAA) proposal to simply cut flights and limit travelers’ options to pre-1969 levels at John F. Kennedy Airport, the agency`s proposals center on expanding capacity, improving efficiency, maintaining safety, and allowing the region`s airports to meet current and future passenger demand.

Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia said, “Unfortunately, the FAA`s approach of cutting flights at JFK isn`t a solution, in fact it’s potentially a recipe for worsening the problem by pushing growing passenger demand to other airports. We face a crisis right now and real solutions mean meeting the demands of families and businesses who need to fly, expanding capacity to allow the system to continue to grow, and working to treat all customers better.”

Port Authority Executive Director Anthony E. Shorris said, “The FAA’s action would simply put a ‘No Vacancy’ sign up at one of the nation’s busiest airports and then walk away from the problem. But cutting the number of flights at one airport to levels not seen in almost 40 years and declaring victory isn’t a solution. The Port Authority has a comprehensive set of ideas that we believe can be successful if the FAA works with local airport operators and the airlines.”

Flight demand has increased significantly – 41 percent – at JFK from March 2006 through August 2007, affording the New York region nonstop service to 12 new domestic and 15 new international destinations.

On October 19, the FAA announced its recommendations for JFK in advance of scheduled meetings with airlines. The federal agency has proposed a cut in the maximum number of flights at the airport to 80 an hour–equivalent to the cap at JFK in the late 1960s. If this limitation were in place at JFK last year, the airport would have turned away nearly 3.4 million passengers, or 10,000 per day. Under the restriction, JFK would handle fewer flight operations per day than LaGuardia Airport, despite JFK having approximately 44,000 total feet of runway space compared to LaGuardia’s 14,000.

The Port Authority formed an inclusive task force last spring to address the delay problem and the agency has been committed to a comprehensive, three-pronged approach to address the delay problem:

  • Expanding capacity through the use of new technology, investing over $1 billion in capital improvements, and utilizing the newly acquired Stewart International Airport.

  • Meeting current demand with better management of planes in flight and on the ground.

  • Improved customer service during delays through the agency’s $34 million initiative at all of its airports.

In March, the Port Authority sent the FAA 17 recommendations for managing current demand and reducing delays that both the agency and 14 of the largest carriers at the airports agreed would be effective and could be implemented quickly. Listed below are the highlights of those recommendations. If implemented fully, these initiatives could begin to significantly reduce delays by next summer.

Installing Components of NextGen in NYC Airports now, prior to Full System Implementation

By leveraging the technology currently being installed for the ASDE-X and ground surveillance systems at the three major airports, the initial benefits of the NextGen system could be provided beginning in 2008, rather than waiting five years that current estimates show it will take for the New York and New Jersey region to see benefits from the full NextGen system implementation.

Installing Advanced Ground Surveillance Systems

Installing new ground surveillance technology on runways, taxiways and ramp areas will allow the FAA and airlines to better manage aircraft on the ground.

Currently, airports throughout the country continue to use control tower line-of-sight procedures and old radar technology to manage aircraft movements on runways and taxiways. Implementing new technology for ground surveillance systems would allow for more efficient management of takeoffs and landings, as well as gate utilization and ramp management, reducing delays on the ground.

Adding an Additional Westbound Departure Route to the Existing Airspace

Currently, the FAA`s J80 Westbound departure route is one of the most congested routes in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. The route accommodates westbound departures from the New York, Philadelphia, Washington and New England areas, and the bottleneck, particularly during peak hours, can be crippling. Adding another high-altitude route that parallels J80 will reduce the bottleneck and consequent delays, without additional noise impacts on the ground.

Adding Taxiways to Handle More Aircraft

The Port Authority is committed to constructing additional taxiways at each of its three major airports. New taxiways would allow each airfield to handle more aircraft simultaneously, reducing wait times for departing flights to get to runways and for arriving flights to proceed from the runway to their gate.

Improving Navigation Systems to Reduce Spacing between Aircrafts in Flight

By developing new RNAV RNP (Area Navigation with Required Navigation Performance) procedures, the protected airspace around each aircraft in flight could be dramatically reduced. At JFK, the reduced spacing would allow for a simultaneous all four-runway configuration to be utilized for the first time. Additionally, the advanced navigation procedures would allow for simultaneous arrivals and departures from all four Port Authority airports in poor weather conditions. Weather accounts for 62.3 percent of the delay minutes in the metropolitan area.

Improving Surveillance Systems to Reduce the Spacing Requirements between Aircraft in Flight

By utilizing the most advanced surveillance system, like ADS-B (Automated Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast), the FAA could shrink the protected airspace around aircraft in flight. Currently, Air Traffic Control uses outdated radar technology, which can often be inaccurate by up to one mile causing the requirement for extra precautionary spacing.

ADS-B surveillance is considered accurate to within three feet, allowing for reducing spacing and the all benefits already noted that come with reducing spacing. ADS-B is a central component to the Next Generation Air Traffic System (NextGen). This system needs to be implemented in the New York/New Jersey area first, prior to being deployed nationally.

In addition to these recommendations, the Port Authority is asking the FAA to pursue some long-range initiatives, such as the development of four-dimension flight tracks to improve traffic flows and runway sequencing. Current flight tracks take into account only lateral, longitudinal and vertical components of flight (three-dimension). By utilizing four-dimension flight tracks, which account for lateral, longitudinal, vertical and time, aircraft would be tracked to a precise point-in-space at a given time. The technology would significantly improve aircraft sequencing to the runways for departures and more efficient sequencing of arrivals – allowing for a net increase in arrivals and departures, and reducing aircraft emissions as well. New aircraft already have this technology. The FAA should coordinate and communicate this information to improve system performance.

Finally, the Port Authority has called on Congress to pass the FAA Reauthorization bill, in order to fund these priorities and to provide oversight of the FAA on implementation of these and other operational and procedural initiatives that will reduce delays, as well as accommodate demand in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.

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