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New York sees delays due to ATC cuts, but are they fake?

Yesterday I posted that due to the furloughs of FAA Air Traffic Controllers taking effect this weekend, the airspace system would begin to be crippled, especially surrounding the nation's busiest hubs. Well, tonight the New York City area airports of JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark are seeing considerable delays. However, some people around the internet are saying that these delays are being manufactured to make a point to politicians, and that they aren't all really necessary. Whether or not this is true is up in the air (pun intended) but it bring up a good point. Is purposely causing problems for passengers and costing the airlines money below the government? You decide for yourself. The photo below shows all flights in the New York area inbound to JFK-International as of 8:40 PM on April 21st. The airport is currently experiencing the most significant delays of up to an hour and a half. Most transatlantic flights coming in from the East are being forced to conduct several holding patterns, allowing time to sequence them into the airport. The interesting part is that the amount of flights inbound to the airport is about one tenth it usually is and whether or not these holding patterns are necessary is questionable. Reports are buzzing all over aviation social media outlets that these delays may be being manufactured by the FAA to make a point to politicians, hoping to make them change their decision to furlough employees. If this is true, then it is ridiculous and unfair to both passengers and the airlines. These holding patterns will cost the airlines thousand of dollars in fuel and will undoubtedly cause several passengers to miss connecting flights. This photo If these delays are legitimate and this much sequencing is necessary to separate inbound flights into JFK, then something needs to be done quick. If our nation's busiest international airports can only handle 30 landings an hour then our government needs to find a different way to save money. If this continues for any length of time it will be detrimental to the airlines and will cause headaches for travelers everywhere. The Thirty Thousand Blog is written by Kyle Dunst. Like us on Facebook or follow @30ThousandBlog on Twitter.

10 Comments

  1. Simon Simon
    April 21, 2013    

    It is appalling to accuse the controllers of manufacturing delays. Politicians may play games, but I don’t think anyone working in ATC is going to force an airplane to hold when it isn’t necessary, especially transatlantic flights. Controllers take their jobs seriously and to accuse them of playing with the time and safety of thousands of people to make a point is shameful.

    • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
      April 21, 2013    

      I’m not trying to accuse them of this. Just pointing out that it is strange how aircraft are holding when it appears unnecessary. I hope that it isn’t true and that the powers that be will realize that these cuts really are having a significant effect on the airspace system.

      • Elliot Elliot
        April 22, 2013    

        If the tower normally has 12 controllers and there is only 8 there, then it wouldn’t matter how nice the weather is our how light the traffic. They are not going to accept as many airplanes and viola, you have enroute holding.
        Here at Boston Center this message came off the printer, GROUND STOP JFK DUE TO TOWER STAFFING LEVELS.

        • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
          April 22, 2013    

          Hopefully they can figure something out soon. Do you know if Boston has specifically reduced the amount of traffic it will accept inbound/ limited operations to less runways? Just wondering if any airports have specific procedures in place with the reduced staffing.

  2. AAO AAO
    April 21, 2013    

    Clearly you know nothing about the ATC system sir. I would suggest removing this ludicrous material. And using screenshot from Flightaware to base this article…pathetic. The above article is evidence that media and social media allow empty-headed, baseless statements to pollute the internet deceive the public.

    • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
      April 21, 2013    

      As I stated, I am not trying to accuse them but was just pointing out the abnormality of the situation. Flightaware provides a real time depiction of air traffic, in this case I was using it to show traffic inbound to JFK. I hope that these delays were legitimate and that the government can figure out a way to fix this situation.

  3. AirBoss AirBoss
    April 22, 2013    

    Is it real, or MEMOREX?

    ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: Aviation Information System
    Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2013 01:30:07 GMT
    From: AIS-AUTOMAIL@fly.faa.gov
    To: undisclosed-recipients:;

    Ground Delay Program to [ LGA ] due to [ OTHER / STAFFING ]
    Avg Delay arriving traffic: 1 hour and 25 minutes.

  4. April 22, 2013    

    Rather than slamming someone for even asking a question, I’d like some of the folks like AAO and Simon to explain the situation. Indeed, with the automation provided by varoius systems (ERAM?) is it really the case that loosing one person-day per pay period would indeed cause delays during light volume in good weather?

    Are these towers so severly understaffed during normal operations that loosing that even a minor disruption in manpower (1/10th), leaves them unable to keep schedules moving during light air traffic? In the past, sheduled flights, during IMC, with significantly heavier air traffic have been kept moving reasonably well, even with people out sick, without the kind of disruptions that appear to be taking place at some airports today.

    Rather than accusing folks of this-or-that, how about educating us?

    • Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
      April 22, 2013    

      Thank you very much for this comment. This is exactly the point I am trying to convey. If these delays are legitimate, which they may very well be, our ATC system really needs to work some things out. It seems that if JFK, one of our nation’s busiest international hubs, is so crippled by just a small reduction in the work force then the government needs to find another way to save money. Being a pilot myself, I am truly just curious as to specifically why these reductions in staff are having such a huge impact. For example, today all flights inbound to JFK are being held an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes while there are literally 5 inbound planes within 100 miles of the airport. If there aren’t enough controllers to handle more than that then this problem needs to be solved immediately.

      • Eric Eric
        April 22, 2013    

        I am an air traffic control student. On occasion it has been that one person ran both runways at the airport and it is certainly more difficult to do than with someone else running the other runway. With requests to cross runways (shutting them down essentially until the crossing is over) and making sure planes don’t crash, I would say I worked far slower than otherwise to make sure nothing bad happened. Yes, planes sat waiting to takeoff longer than otherwise. Which has a ripple effect because ground stops planes from taxiing. Because to gather your thoughts after working with everyone else in the tower, making sure the runway is clear and final is clear before taking someone off is kind of important.

        And I realize I’m still learning and real world controllers are better than I am but the concept is the same. The difference is if I crash two planes you just reset the simulator and start over.

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About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

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