FAA makes airport status feature available for PDAs

The Federal Aviation Administration launched a wireless application for electronic handheld devices, designed to give the traveling public access to flying conditions and whether their flight is on time, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told lawmakers today.

The Fly FAA Wireless application can be downloaded to personal digital assistants, such as Blackberrys, from the FAA site. It is one of the steps FAA has taken to ease air traffic gridlock and traveler inconvenience.

“Air travel is expected to come roaring back this summer,” meeting or exceeding the level before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Blakey said in testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aviation subcommittee. At FAA’s request, United and American airlines reduced slightly the number of their daily flights out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the world’s busiest, she said.

The wireless application provides the same information that can be accessed by computer from the FAA’s Website airport status feature, which describes in real time the weather and conditions at the nation’s top 35 airports. It is updated by the minute. The application will also link to major airlines and from there the user can access specific flight information. A consumer hotline is also available for complaints, such as for lost baggage.

The FAA has taken the airport status feed from its command center and put it into an XML file, which is much more accessible and navigable on electronic handheld devices.

The application is meant to help travelers understand how the air traffic system is performing and how it affects them, for example, Will I make my connection or should I change my reservation, said FAA spokesman Greg Martin.

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