Airlines: Summer flight delays stem from modernization woes

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The long-delayed modernization of the nation's air traffic control systems have lead to the "horrendous" flight delays that have plagued travelers this summer, according to a top official from the association that represents the U.S. commercial airline industry.

Jack Ryan, vice president of the Air Transport Association, said air traffic control-related flight delays in the United States this July increased 70 percent over July 1998, with total air traffic control delays for the year running 19 percent more than last year.

Ryan, speaking here at the Institute of Navigation's annual Global Positioning System conference, said these delays are a direct result of lagging modernization efforts to the nationwide network of air traffic control centers and navigation aids operated by the FAA.

Funding for deployment of FAA Global Positioning System-based satellite navigation systems must be accelerated now for air traffic control, Ryan said.

Ryan added that ATA and its members intend to push hard to receive funding for two key FAA satellite navigation projects, the Wide-Area Augmentation System and the Local-Area Augmentation System. These programs, one working globally, the other in specific regions, will enhance GPS to the point that pilots will be able to use satellite signals for all types of navigation, including precision approaches in bad weather.

Satellite navigation, Ryan said, will increase the "throughput" of the National Airspace System, going a long way toward alleviating the air traffic control delays that have plagued the airline industry this summer.

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