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New N.Y./Philly Delays Expected Due to Ill-Conceived FAA Plan - (12/29/2008)

CONTACTS:  New York Center NATCA Facility Representative, Julio Henriques, 631-786-3838; New York TRACON NATCA Facility Representative Dean Iacopelli, 516-356-3983. 

NEW YORK – So you thought the flight delays last week due to bad holiday weather were miserable? Try dealing with what will likely be a fresh set of delays starting today if you’re flying out of New York or Philadelphia. And this time, you can thank the Federal Aviation Administration. 

At issue is the airspace presently used for holding patterns to accommodate delayed aircraft into New York’s Kennedy International Airport. Starting today, the FAA is forcibly transferring that airspace from New York Air Route Traffic Control Center to New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). 

What it means is that travelers arriving into JFK and departing out of Newark going to the Caribbean should expect delays. Also affected are flights out of Newark headed to destinations in the Southeastern United States and those operating out of Philadelphia to European destinations and Northeast U.S. airports. 

NATCA has warned the airlines about the issue. In a letter to Air Transport Association President Jim May last week, New York TRACON NATCA Facility Representative Dean Iacopelli said, “While the agency may have briefed you and the airlines you represent that there is some operational advantage to using terminal separation (three miles minimum separation between aircraft instead of five miles at higher altitudes) to work the holding pattern airspace, the truth is much more complex. … Aircraft in a holding pattern are separated (vertically) by 1,000 feet; therefore reducing horizontal separation provides no increase in system efficiency to aircraft in holding patterns.” 

This change will actually result in a loss of efficiency. This is because the already overstretched arrival controllers at New York TRACON, located in Westbury, N.Y., must now be responsible for not only sequencing arrivals to the runway, but watching aircraft in a holding pattern 60 miles from the runway.

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