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Mon, Apr 17, 2023

Airline Complaints Compel FAA to Delay Space Launches

What Can’t Be Solved, Cancel—the Government Way

The Federal Aviation Administration stated on Thursday, 13 April 2023 that it is inclined to intermittently delay space-launches for purpose of minimizing disruption to commercial air-travel and promoting what the agency tediously and conformably referred to as “equitable” access to airspace in the vicinity of launch sites.

Space launches, the frequency of which has increased by magnitudes since the late 1990s, interfere, occasionally, with airline schedules insomuch as space-flight operations require the closure of airspace along launch-vehicles’ trajectories. What’s more, Florida’s Kennedy Space Center lies near the southern terminus of the United States’ East Coast air-travel corridor—one of the world’s busiest.

FAA officials ascribe their concerns, speciously, to the mayhem by which the 2022 summer air-travel season was plagued—mayhem born of knee-jerk COVID legislation and reactionary airline and airport worker layoffs occasioned in part by massive government subsidies paid out by dint of edicts promulgated by the Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress. FAA officials worry 2023 will bring a repeat of 2022’s dismal air-carrier performance—which saw over fifty-thousand Part 121 airline flights canceled outright and hundreds-of-thousands of additional flights delayed in the twin faces of self-diminished airline capacity and skyrocketing post COVID demand for air-travel.

The FAA set forth that it will base future decisions germane to the issuance of space-launch permits on factors such as the number of flights and passengers affected by such operations. The agency stated, also, that it will henceforth take into consideration events the likes of holidays and major sporting events prior to issuing space-launch permits.

Airlines for America (A4A)—the Washington D.C.-based trade association and lobbying group predisposed to involving itself in U.S. government decisions pertaining to the aviation industry—praised the FAA, contending that last-minute scratches of planned space-launches have resulted in protracted airspace closures by which air-travelers are inconvenience and both the environment and airlines’ bottom lines are adversely affected by emission-producing aircraft ground-stopped at airport gates.

Airlines currently expect 145 space-launches in 2023, an increase of 222-percent since 2020.

In a memo, A4A reported that a March 2023 Florida space-launch was highly disruptive to air travel, resulting in four major U.S. air-carriers reporting a collective 99,000 incremental flight delay minutes by which 303,000 customers were impacted. The A4A memo added “the launch resulted in an additional 227,000 gallons of fuel burn for three of the four U.S. carriers.” Viewed through the lens of economics, that’s an additional $630,000 in fuel expenses for the affected airlines.

Additional steps undertaken by the FAA to circumvent 2023 summer air-travel woes include the agency’s acquiescence to a joint Delta Air Lines and United Airlines request to temporarily cut up to ten-percent of flights at congested New York-area and Washington airports this summer on account of an ongoing air traffic controller shortage. The FAA disclosed in March 2023 that over the summer of 2022, shortfalls in air traffic control staffing had contributed to the delays of some 41,498 flights originating at New York airports.



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