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Sat, Jan 03, 2004

FAA: Bizjets Caused Florida Traffic Jam

Some Flights Delayed 5 Hours

The popularity of South Florida is by no means confined to the blue hair and false teeth set. No, no. Over the holidays, the rich and famous also piled in, coming in numbers so vast, airport authorities in Fort Lauderdale (FL) were stunned and traffic was stacked up for hours at a time.

Blame corporate aviation, says the FAA. And it ain't over yet.

"The real issue is that all these people came down and now we have to get them back," said Brad Kost, president of Galaxy Aviation at Palm Beach International. He says Sunday will be an especially busy day.

The inbound traffic to southern Florida was so heavy just before Christmas that the FAA instituted its traffic management system. That allowed controllers nationwide to hold flights bound for South Florida until they had a clear slot to land. For some corporate air crews and their passengers, that meant as many as five hours on the ground.

Regionally, the FAA says traffic last week was up 20-percent over norms. But nowhere was the traffic jam worse than at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood. There, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports approximately 175 non-commercial flight operations on a normal day. But on the weekend after Christmas, that number jumped dramatically. On Friday, 320 aircraft operated at the airport. Another 328 operations were reported Saturday and 257 on Sunday. Combine that with the fact that, while about 450 commercial flights operate in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood on a given day, the number of commercial ops jumped to about 520 on each of those three days.

"I've never seen anything like it, but corporate jets operate in the same air corridors, so when you have such a large increase it jams the air space," said airport spokesman Jim Reynolds.

Advice: Print out a copy of your Propwash this weekend. If you're flying out of South Florida on a return trip, you can anticipate more delays, according to the FAA and airport officials. You might just find yourself looking for something to read.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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