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Controllers to Tell House Subcommittee: Let's Keep the Focus on Increasing Capacity in Debate on How to Solve Delay Problem - (3/15/2001)

WASHINGTON – National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr appreciatively finds himself in a familiar setting today to talk about a familiar subject. But while reminding members of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee that aviation delays are a multi-faceted problem, Carr wants to inform them that it’s airport and runway construction which hasn’t kept pace with demand for air travel – not the increasingly modernized air traffic control system.

“Our system can no longer be characterized as ‘outdated’ and ‘antiquated,’” Carr said. “The FAA, under the leadership of Administrator Jane Garvey, has made significant progress in modernizing the air traffic control system. NATCA will continue to work with the agency to move new technologies into the workplace as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.”

Over the past three years, the FAA has replaced or upgraded most of the major components of the air traffic control system. Highlighting the modernization efforts has been the replacement of radar displays (Display System Replacement) and host hardware in the 20 en route centers. In addition, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System is moving from development to deployment.

FAA modernization is an ongoing process consisting of over 100 projects. However, while emphasizing that modernizing air traffic control equipment is essential to meeting the present and future demands of our system, Carr said there’s no disputing the fact that all the greatest technology in the world won’t do much to help the frustrating and suffocating impact of flight delays and traffic congestion.

“According to the FAA and Mitre Corporation, improvements in air traffic control technology will enhance system capacity by five to 15 percent at best,” Carr noted. “While newer equipment will greatly increase reliability, it will not change the number of aircraft that can land or depart at any given time. Fifty miles of runways at our nation’s 25 busiest airports will solve most of our aviation delays. A new runway can allow 30 to 40 more operations per hour.”

Other highlights of Carr’s testimony:

? Privatization has no place in the discussion on airline delays. It is foolish to think that a change in ownership of the system will improve safety, increase capacity and reduce costs.

? The DOT inspector general notes the majority of the increase in flight operations and passengers over the next 15 years will occur at the nation’s 28 largest airports. While most of these airports and the surrounding airspace have already exceeded existing capacity, regional airports are being underused and ignored.

? Teamwork and collaboration are needed to develop and implement concrete solutions…and we mean concrete. We must stop laying blame and start laying down some new runways.

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