By David Hughes
A group of National Air Traffic Control Assn. union officials say that short staffed ATC facilities and airline over scheduling are causing air traffic delays in the New York City area, not business jet flights.
The Air Transport Assn. has been claiming that the bizjets operating out of Teterboro, a main business jet hub airport, are not taking their fair share of delays — adding to airline woes.
NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello says it’s not true that business jets are causing delays in the New York area because they have “separate arrival fixes and separate airspace when they enter the New York Terminal Radar Control (TRACON) area, and they don’t impede air carriers.” In fact, he added, bizjet arrivals are often restricted to accommodate airline arrivals at Newark.
Eddie Kragh, the NATCA facility representative at the Newark tower, says this airport has a very restricted capacity of 22 departures per half hour. But on Oct. 2, between 9 and 9:30 a.m., the airport had scheduled 33 departures to deal with. This amounts to an “automatic built-in delay” for 11 aircraft he adds.
NATCA President Patrick Forrey say his union believes delays will continue to increase next year ion the New York area. He echoed Kragh in saying airlines over scheduling there and around the nation is part of the problem.
Air carrier operations have grown in the New York area by 14% over the past five years while general aviation activity has shrunk 9%, according to Forrey. At Newark and LaGuardia only 3.5% of departures involve general aviation traffic while at John F. Kennedy International it is only 1.7%. ATA’s claim about bizjets in the New York area is a “fallacy and a distraction from the real issues,” Forrey concludes.
As always, NATCA continues to harp on controller shortages as one of two key reasons for delays in the New York area and nationwide. Dean Iacopelli, the NATCA representative at the New York TRACON, says prior to Sept., 2006, the FAA authorized this facility to be staffed by 270 certified air traffic controllers. Now the authorized number has been reduced to a maximum of 188 “based solely on budget.” Iacopelli says this is the lowest staffing level in 10 years when the New York Tracon is facing the highest volume of traffic ever at JFK.
Barrett Byrnes, the NATCA representative at the JFK tower, says is now handling 1,400 operations per day (up 40%) with a controller workforce that has shrunk from 37 to 25 for round the clock operations. And one more controller is due to leave this year while five of the most senior ones face mandatory retirement next year while six more will probably choose to retire voluntarily, he says.
Source: AVIATION WEEK