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Recipe for Disaster

 Over the past 50 years the subject of "Air Traffic Control" has been publicly addressed by the occupant of the Oval Office in the White House exactly twice.  The first time in August 1981 by then President Ronald Reagan who summarily dismissed 12,000 striking PATCO controllers.  The second time, nearly 19 years later, by President William Clinton who last week proposed "new" strategies to help airlines reduce delays.  The only similarity between the two are that both are a cruel hoax on the American people and it shows that upper levels of government still haven't a clue as to what air traffic control is all about.  I've watched, over the past 19 years, the increasing proficiency that FAA Traffic Management officials have acquired in useing non-speak and smoke-and-mirrors to fool themselves and our customers (you) that there is a solution to current flight delays.  The Air Transport Association, the alphabet group representing airlines, are fooling themselves, either purposely or not, into thinking that ATC modernization will be the key to reducing delays to a more acceptable level.  The ATA is in denial or is intentionally deflecting responsibility away from their members.  In my opinion the latter would be closer to the truth.  Other than poor weather, it is their constituents, airlines, who are primarily responsible for creating the massive delays seen last year at New York area airports.  To say that it was because of government mismanagement or ineffiency is pure hogwash.  It is the airlines themselves that schedule 18 aircraft to depart at exactly 8AM at LaGuardia, 16 at exactly 7:30AM at Newark, not the FAA.  Of those 34 aircraft, only 2 are able to make it off on time, because exactly 8AM and exactly 7:30AM happen only once each day.  Multiply that by the number of airports that use hubbing to cut costs and it is easy to account for 1200 delayed flights every day.  On a more sinister note, could Continental be stacking the departure deck against United at Newark, keeping the United flight chronically late thereby discouraging bookings?  Could USAir be trying the same thing to American at LaGuardia?  Competition is intense.  Would you do that to your competition if you could?  
     The air traffic system has a finite capacity at any given time given the amount and location of runways currently available.  On any given day, 20%, or 1 in five, of the world's commercial airline fleet travels through New York area airspace.  A new web site, conference calls, and use of military airspace 60 miles offshore does not seriously address the issue of delays nor will it address a predicted 50% increase in air traffic over the next few years.  It's just more smoke-and-mirrors.  That seems like a recipe for, at the very least more delays, at the very worst disaster.  


Barry W. Leach