National Airspace System: Long-Term Capacity Planning Needed Despite Recent Reduction in Flight Delays [open pdf - 382KB]
Initiatives to address flight delays include adding new runways to accommodate more aircraft and better coordinating efforts to adjust to spring and summer storms. Although most of these efforts were developed separately, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has incorporated many of them into an Operational Evolution Plan (OEP), which is designed to give more focus to these initiatives. FAA acknowledges that the plan is not intended as a final solution to congestion and delay problems. The plan focuses on initiatives that can be implemented within 10 years and generally excludes approaches lacking widespread support across stakeholder groups. The current initiatives, if successful, will add substantial capacity to the nation's air transport system. Even so, these efforts are unlikely to prevent delays from becoming worse unless the reduced traffic levels resulting from the events of September 11 persist. One key reason is that most delay-prone airports have limited ability to increase their capacity, especially by adding new runways--the main capacity-building element of OEP. The air transport system has long-term needs beyond the initiatives now under way. One initiative would add new capacity--not by adding runways to existing capacity-constrained airports, but rather by building entirely new airports or using nearby airports with available capacity. Another would manage and distribute demand within the system's existing capacity. A third would develop other modes of intercity travel, such as, but not limited to, high-speed rail where metropolitan areas are relatively close together. Because of increasing demands on the air transport system or because of the need to meet security and other concerns prompted by the recent terrorist attacks, the federal government will need to assume a central role.
Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/