As Holiday Travel Season Begins, Menendez Calls On FAA To Schedule Meeting On Delays At Newark And Address Air Traffic Controllers Issue

As Holiday Travel Season Begins, Menendez Calls On FAA To Schedule Meeting On Delays At Newark And Address Air Traffic Controllers Issue

Menendez originally wrote FAA in August urging new approaches to dealing with flight delays

Washington - As the holiday travel season beings and travelers brace for extensive flight delays, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is again urging the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation to consider strong actions to ease delays and to adopt a regional approach to dealing with congestion in the New York/New Jersey airspace (Click here for letter or see text below: Menendez.senate.gov/pdf/112007lettertoFAAandUSDT.pdf). Sen. Menendez, who first wrote the FAA in August to urge the exploration of flight caps and other innovative ideas, said he is encouraged by the FAA's recent willingness to propose partial solutions, but remains concerned that Newark Liberty International Airport has not received specific attention and that the FAA has done little to retain experienced air traffic controllers.


"Air travelers want to spend the holidays sitting around the dining room table with their loved ones, not sitting on the floor in the airport," said Sen. Menendez. "It's somewhat encouraging that the FAA has finally shown some initiative in dealing with the endless delays, but a few so-called 'express lanes' aren't a cure-all. I want to make sure the FAA isn't going to rest on its laurels, and I want to make sure that they will take a regional approach to dealing with congestion in our area."


Text of letter to FAA:


November 20, 2007

The Honorable Robert A. Sturgell
Deputy and Acting Administrator
800 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20591


The Honorable Mary E. Peters
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590


Dear Secretary Peters and Administrator Sturgell:

I am writing to follow up on a letter I sent to you on August 21st concerning flight delays in the New Jersey/New York area. Thus far I have not heard a response to this letter and while I am encouraged by some of your recent actions taken to address flight delays, I think your efforts still fall short of the mark. If delays are not improved this holiday season, then I think that should serve notice that you must act quickly and boldly to prevent even worse delays next summer.


I have attached a copy of my August letter, but in summary I called on both the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to examine whether temporary limits on operations (otherwise known as "caps") should be placed on all of the region's airports, to immediately convene a schedule reduction meeting with all relevant operators in the region, and to reexamine whether other strategies should be employed such as giving priority to larger planes.


While I am encouraged that action has taken place at JFK Airport, I have noticed a complete lack of action at Newark Liberty International Airport. For instance, flight reduction meetings have already taken place at JFK, but despite an anticipated announcement, nothing has taken place yet at Newark. Further it is rumored that caps on flights are inevitable at JFK, but are not being considered in Newark. Such a piecemeal approach will never solve what is a regional issue and action at JFK only could very well make delays at Newark even worse.


I would also like to raise another issue that I feel is directly related to flight delays and that is the FAA's management of its air traffic controllers. For too long the FAA has failed to treat its air traffic controllers with respect and has failed to negotiate a fair contract. This has led to a mass exodus of experienced controllers who can handle increased flight traffic. In FY07, 856 air traffic controllers retired. In their place over 600 air traffic positions have been filled by new employees with no experience. In fact, this holiday season, there are 7.5 percent fewer veteran, fully trained controllers on the job nationwide than in 2006, handing 4 percent more traffic. This scenario will undoubtedly lead to disastrous delays this week and next summer.


The DOT and the FAA must use all reasonable means to reduce flight delays. The industry, its workers, and, most importantly, the traveling public are depending on you to address this serious problem. I thank you for your attention to this matter, and I ask for a prompt response to this letter and to my letter sent to you in August.


Sincerely,

ROBERT MENENDEZ

United States Senator

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