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Loss of Land and Hold Short Operations Factors into Delays - (9/13/1999)

WASHINGTON– Air traffic is at an all time high, more flights are jammed into a finite system than ever before and now it’s confirmed: There’s stranglehold on ground operations at the nation’s busiest airports.

The effects of an agreement among the airlines, pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration to severely restrict the use of land and hold short operations are being felt at airports across the country. LAHSO, as it is commonly known, is a proven capacity enhancing procedure where pilots are cleared to land on one runway while stopping short of a second intersecting runway where other operations are taking place.

"Controllers have been safely and successfully using this procedure for 30 years," said Randy Schwitz, National Air Traffic Controllers Association executive vice president. "While terminal airspace is more congested than ever and controllers are facing an unprecedented amount of pressure to get more planes pushed through the system, the airlines and the pilots decide they no longer want to use this operation."

The reduction in LAHSO procedures has diminished capacity and increased delays at the nation’s most crowded airports. For example, a recent FAA study found a 210 percent increase in delays at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport since the implementation of LAHSO restrictions.

The same study found prior to April 15, the maximum arrival rate at Philadelphia International Airport was 70 operations per hour under perfect conditions. Since the new LAHSO limitations have been in place, that figure has dropped to 52, a loss of 18. However, the airlines refuse to decrease the number of flights to match the capacity.

It was also reported that 76 percent of Honolulu International Airport users are not eligible to participate in LAHSO because of the agreement.

"When a controller calls for this procedure, the pilots often refuse because of airline policy or personal reasons," said Schwitz. "Then we have to regroup and filter that flight back through an already congested system, essentially redoing the work that has already been done. When the airlines agreed to use LAHSO, they should have guaranteed their pilots were trained enough to be completely comfortable with the procedure. Their refusal to utilize this tool only adds to the delay problems."

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