News Article - August 25, 2007

FAA Introduces New High-Tech Plan to Reduce Flight Delays  
  More than half-a-million flights arrive and depart Philadelphia International Airport each year and the number keeps growing. It's a big reason why this airport has one of the worst on-time flight records in the nation. And a big reason why so many air travelers are fed up. Like this guy: "It's a lousy experience. And I fly for a living, so I get a lot of it."

   That experience is about to get a whole lot better- so promises the Federal Aviation Administration- in town Friday to show off its new high-tech answer to flying the crowded skies. One of the reasons flights are delayed is that the skies can handle just so much traffic.

   That's because aircraft controlled by the current ground-based radar systems, must be at least five miles away from each other when in flight. During a midday fly-around, the FAA demonstrated its new satellite-based system, which gives each pilot information about the location of other aircraft. While the control tower would still be in charge, pilots could better understand their position in the overall traffic scheme.

   And so, says FAA project manager Arthur Sullivan, "We're hoping long term that we'll be able to reduce that separation, to be able to put more airplanes into the airspace, which will allow more direct routing of airplanes into airports." Which would mean fewer delays. Of course, the upgrade would also require improvements to airports themselves- for one thing, more runways to get more planes into the air. As for the price and timetable to fundamentally change the nation's air traffic control system?

   How about $21 billion dollars, over the next ten to fifteen years? The FAA is already pitching Congress. FAA regional administrator Manny Weiss says, "Several federal agencies are working together- very closely- to develop that system." And if it doesn't happen? "Well," says Weiss, "we'll face gridlock, ultimately." More planes getting more places, more quickly and more safely. It's not yet clear that promise can be kept.

Source - MyFox