U.S. airports handle more than 35,000 commercial flights every day.
If you fly a lot, you know that a lot of these flights experience delays, both major and small. In May alone, almost a quarter of these flights were delayed. And the busier the airport, the longer the delays. For example, New York City’s three airports saw a record 35 percent of their flights delayed in 2006.
However, the number one cause of these delays isn’t problems with security or weather but what the Federal Aviation Administration calls “national aviation system delays.” In other words, at 40-years-old, the current system that routes planes from the sky to their terminal is too old to handle the amount of traffic out there, and it will get worse.
Our air traffic systems have to be updated with the technology that we already have: The FAA calls it its Next Generation Air Transportation System.
With GPS technology, pilots can navigate on their own, recognizing traffic patterns and natural formations. Ground-based traffic controllers would not be eliminated. This more precise and immediate navigation would allow airports to reduce the distance, and therefore the time, between landings and takeoffs by almost half, and delays would be vastly reduced.
Unfortunately, all planes must be equipped with the technology in order for it to work, and the technology is expensive. The FAA plans to spend $4.6 billion on Next-Generation related investments over the next five years.
Moreover, there’s no agreement on how to pay for it, or how airlines should pay for costs the FAA won’t assume.
The solution will be up to Congress, but if most people can relate to the aggravation of airline delays, educating the public on the benefits of this new technology should be easy.
To read the full article on Next Generation Air Transportation system, click here.