By Mary Grady, Contributing Editor
When the air traffic system clogged up along the East Coast last Friday, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association told the media that general aviation is a significant cause of delays. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dan Hubbard, spokesman for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). “Almost all delays are caused by weather and the commercial airlines themselves.” He added that the number of turbine business aircraft in the U.S., which the airlines blame for system congestion, is deceptive because the figure overlooks the fact that turbine business aircraft average only about 370 flight hours per year — less than 10 percent of the average flight hours logged by an airliner. Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, agrees: “Severe weather accounts for over 70 percent of delays, which are exacerbated by the hub-and-spoke operation, and the rest is either airline staffing woes, air traffic controller staffing shortages or the airlines’ own operations.” Hubbard said the “deceptions and finger-pointing” by the airlines are drowning out meaningful discussion about how best to strengthen the national airspace system for all users.