The combination of high demand and poor weather, in addition to an air traffic control system that lacks the necessary capacity to handle air traffic effectively, makes the summer months notorious for delay and congestion throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). This hearing will examine the growing problem of congestion and delay in the NAS and steps the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airlines are taking to address it. Senator Rockefeller will preside.
Ted StevensSenatorThe summer travel season last year was certainly difficult for both the airlines and their passengers, and the airline delays and cancellations experienced so far this year have impacted the travel schedules of many travelers.This coupled with the announced airline capacity reductions and workforce reductions, has made for a very difficult summer and the situation does not look any brighter for the rest of the year.While most of the traveling public has become tolerant of modest flight delays, government agencies and the airlines need to take note of the lessons learned from previous summers. I recognize delays will never be avoided altogether, but how we deal with them and track them can certainly be improved.I understand the frustration felt as a result of airline delays and cancellations. When I travel to Alaska, on average, the flight time to transit from Washington D.C. to Anchorage, can take almost 10 hours and that doesn’t include additional time due to flight delays.With the financial state of the airline industry, rising fuel costs, and a downturn in the economy, the government and the airlines are faced with the near impossible challenge of coping with those factors while at the same time developing and implementing a modern air traffic control system to reduce delay and congestion.The Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Congress are in an opportune position to significantly modernize our antiquated air traffic control system and should make every effort to take advantage of that opportunity. Coordination between the government and industry on this effort is essential.Our nation also is confronted with a troubling energy crisis as well. The cost of airline operations are increasing due to rising fuel costs, which has the greatest impact on rural states like Alaska. The industry is going to have to restructure itself in order to become solvent, and it is important it is done quickly.The time is now to confront our energy needs and an essential component of that solution is producing and utilizing our domestic oil and gas reserves to increase supply. The effect of utilizing domestic oil and gas reserves will go a long way towards bringing fuel prices down and creating a more stable aviation transportation system.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Hank KrakowskiChief Operating Officer, Air Traffic OrganizationFederal Aviation Administration
Mr. Tyler DuvallActing Undersecretary of Transportation for PolicyDepartment of Transportation
Ms. Susan FlemingDirector of Physical Infrastructure IssuesGovernment Accountability Office
Mr. John M. MeenanVice President and Chief Operating OfficerAir Transport Association