WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it will seek to reduce flight delays this summer by using new air traffic procedures that allow more precise control of aircraft flow and by persuading airlines not to bunch flights during peak travel periods.
Many of the new traffic flow procedures already have been put into effect, while others, including new flow patterns for some air traffic flying in and out of the New York City area, will be imposed beginning next month, FAA officials said.
FAA Administrator Donald Engen told the airlines about the plans earlier this month in a letter.
Engen has expressed optimism that delays, which reached record numbers last summer, will not be a major problem this summer. He has told the airlines that beginning Sunday, they may end special flight restrictions instituted last November at six busy airports.
Flight schedules are not expected to change significantly, however, until April 28, when the airlines begin using schedules for the heavy travel season geared to the start of Daylight Saving Time.
FAA officials have said that the changes in air traffic procedures include alterations in routes and procedures for planes flying into the New York area from the southwest, and acceleration of a program to resolve bottlenecks in the airways as they start to develop.
The airlines have assured the FAA that they will not return to last year's practice of bunching flights.
A delay is recorded when a flight is 15 minutes late either on taking off or on landing. Delays hit a record high in October when 48,898 flights were reported to be delayed--an average of 1,600 flights for each day that month.
Six of the nation's busiest airports--Kennedy, La Guardia and Newark in the New York area; O'Hare in Chicago; Hartfield in Atlanta and Stapleton International in Denver--were told by the FAA last November to spread peak-hour flights. That measure resulted in delays dropping to an average of 863 a day through January.
The first of the air traffic changes in the New York area will begin on April 11, when the agency reverses airways used for flights to La Guardia and Newark to expedite the traffic flow from the southwest.
Later in the month, the FAA plans to start a program to expedite flights from New York to the Midwest by using specially equipped controllers to resolve bottlenecks as they develop.
By late May, planes coming from the Southwest will be transferred directly from the Washington air route traffic control center to an "approach" facility in Garden City, N.Y. This will eliminate the need for intermediate handling of flights by controllers at the New York center in Islip, N.Y.
Another planned change is to move holding patterns more to the southwest for planes that unexpectedly encounter congestion approaching New York. This will provide more airspace through which to guide outbound planes.