WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ahead of the holiday travel crunch, President Bush ordered steps Thursday to reduce air traffic congestion and long delays that have left passengers stranded.I don't know which is more depressing, that Bush thinks this is a plan that will actually ease congestion, or that the stenographers in our media are so ill-informed about aviation issues that they parrot this "express lane" catch phrase without actually analyzing whether it would actually, you know, work.
President Bush, accompanied by acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell, outlined a plan to reduce air traffic congestion on Thursday.
The most significant change is that the Pentagon will open unused military airspace from Florida to Maine to create "a Thanksgiving express lane" for commercial airliners.
Thing is, unless this military airspace Bush is opening up happens to contain several dozen new commercial airports with terminals and runways and scheduled service, it's not going to do thing one to improve holiday travel. You see, the skies are what we pilots call "really big" and we just don't need much more maneuvering space to fit all the airplanes in them. In fact, every registered airplane in the US could be in the sky at one time and they would fit perfectly fine! As long as none of them ever had to take off or land, that is. Airports are somewhat smaller than the sky, and have limited capacity. The runways can handle only so many takeoffs and landings at once, there are not enough terminals for the scheduled commercial flights even absent delays, and the approach corridors to major airports can handle only so many planes at once.
To be fair (not my strong point) the rest of the article did list some more technical and useful measures the FAA is taking, and yes, in the event of inclement weather, a little more flexibility in re-routing might make delays less common. I particularly liked the idea of raising takeoff and landing fees at peak hours -- that makes sense and might encourage airlines to shift flights out of the peak times. None of these measures, however, fully addresses the fundamental problem -- too many airplanes trying to get onto too few runways at too few commercial airports at the same time.