Says DOT/FAA Plan Based On "Ideological, Market-Based
The gloves are off. New
York Senator Chuck Schumer joined with the Air Transport
Association and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on
Wednesday, to mount a united front against plans by the Department
of Transportation to impose flight caps and slot auctions at three
New York City-area airports.
Schumer, a Democrat, slammed the DOT's proposed experiment as
based on "ideological, market-based theory" trumpeted by the Bush
Administration, adding it doesn't address other possible reasons
for flight delays and crowded airports.
"Instead of focusing on real, tested solutions to solve this
problem, like upgrading decades-old technology and hiring an
adequate number of controllers to staff New York’s towers,
the DOT continues to miss the point," Schumer (right) said, reports
The New York Times. "To make matters worse, the FAA's treatment of
controllers has lead to an unprecedented rash of retirements thus
compounding the problem."
As ANN reported, DOT
Secretary Mary Peters announced last month three measures aimed at
curbing flight delays at JFK International, Newark Liberty Airport
and LaGuardia. The DOT implemented a temporary cap on scheduled
flights at Newark at an average of 83 per hour from June 1 until
October 2009, and also opened a 60-day comment window on a plan for
landing slots at JFK and Newark.
The agency readily admits those measures are experiments, to see
if such caps and slot auctions would be effective around New York,
Those measures fail to acknowledge what Schumer says is the real
issue, however -- inadequate air traffic control technology,
operated by too few controllers. The Senator said he's also placed
a hold on Senate confirmation of Robert Sturgell as FAA
Administrator; Sturgell favors flight caps.
"If the DOT and FAA don;t take steps upgrade the technology,
improve capacity at New York’s airports and hire, train and
retain more full time controllers, we are going to see a complete
meltdown in the skies over New York," Schumer threatened.
In response to Schumer's heated remarks, DOT spokesman Brian
Turmail said the Senator is jumping on this particular bandwagon a
"Senator Schumer appears to be more interested in obstructing
measures to cut delays than he is in modernizing the nation’s
air traffic control system and managing chronic aviation
congestion," Turmail said. "It is tempting to imagine how much
better air travel may have been last year had the Senator
demonstrated the same enthusiasm 17 months ago for our proposal to
improve the nation’s aviation network as he does now in
supporting higher fares, poorer service and less competition.
"Fortunately for air
travelers, the Bush Administration will continue to pursue
aggressive steps to make operational improvements, expand aviation
capacity and put in place solutions to scheduling practices that
jam runways at the busiest times of the day."
William R. DeCota, director of aviation for the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey, wasn't nearly as bellicose in his
statements as the bombastic senator... but he did say Schumer's on
the right track.
Stating a 2000 FAA plan to stimulate competition for flights at
New York-area regional airports has failed to achieve its intended
results, DeCota said he expects the DOT's latest plan will also
"Unfortunately, after seven years we are no closer to a workable
solution. Rather, the Administration has chosen to impose an
approach that we, as the airport operator, think is not only
illegal but also disastrous; that the vast majority of the
carriers, including the legacy and low cost carriers, are opposed
to; and that consumers, represented by such groups as the Air
Travelers Association and the Business Travelers Coalition, believe
will ultimately harm rather than help them."
DeCota also questioned if the DOT has authority to hold slot
auctions without Congressional approval. "Nowhere in the Federal
Aviation Act is there a declaration that slots are property and
nowhere is there the authorization to auction or lease slots for
monetary compensation there from," he said.