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NATCA President John S. Carr to Testify on LaGuardia Airport Congestion Problems - (12/5/2000)

WASHINGTON - National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John S. Carr will join a panel of aviation officials today to discuss the serious congestion problem at New York’s LaGuardia Airport before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation.

The current situation at LaGuardia is unique. For over 30 years, federal regulations have limited the numbers of arrivals and departures. Passage of AIR-21 marked the first chance for airlines to significantly expand operations at the airport. NATCA supports the policy objectives of AIR-21 to enhance competition and improve air service to smaller communities. However, NATCA believes the need for expanded service must be balanced against gridlock and safety concerns.

LaGuardia is already overcrowded and cannot safely handle the additional flights. Safety is being compromised. Since the enactment of AIR-21 in April, more than 200 daily flights have been added, increasing operations by 25 percent. Another 600 slot exemption requests have been filed. Meanwhile, in September, LaGuardia faced more than 9,000 delays, representing 25 percent of the national total. Even before passage of AIR-21, LaGuardia topped the list of airports with the most flight delays. AIR-21 slot exemptions have only exacerbated this situation.

“As an air traffic controller, I can tell you that we are under extreme pressure to squeeze more aircraft into an already congested airspace,” Carr testified. “Our motivation is to move aircraft as safely, efficiently and quickly as possible. The longer a delayed aircraft is in our airspace or occupies concrete on the ground, the more difficult our jobs become.

“Controllers go to enormous lengths to ensure the safety of millions of flyers each year. Safety is our business and business is good. But controllers at LaGuardia should not be put in a position of compromising that safety to accommodate more flights.”

NATCA strongly supports the combined efforts of the FAA and the New York/New Jersey Port Authority to address the congestion crisis at LaGuardia. Market forces have failed to limit the amount of flights. Therefore, prompt action is not only necessary but warranted. 

Click here for a complete transcript of Carr’s testimony.

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