Why Improving Air Traffic in the U.S. Northeast Could Ease Travel Everywhere
President and COO of FedEx Corporation
A friend of mine was recently preparing to fly from San Francisco to Washington D.C. Scheduled for an early morning departure, before he was even awake, unbeknownst to him his flight was already delayed two hours.
How many times have you been in a similar situation? For those of you who fly relatively regularly, I’m guessing the answer is too often.
So what’s causing these delays?
Sometimes weather or mechanical issues are the culprit, and no one is asking the FAA or airlines to sacrifice safety in those cases.
But many times, including in my friend’s case, the delays are the result of an air transportation system that hasn’t adopted technology, policies and procedures that would safely process more flights in our skies, cut down on excessive time spent taxiing, and reduce the crowds in our airports. Inefficiency is at almost every turn, and passengers and businesses who rely on air transportation end up suffering.
Nowhere in the U.S. do these pain points stand out more − and cause more of a ripple effect − than in the Northeast Corridor, the busiest airspace in our nation and the cause of nearly half of all flight delays in the U.S. A key part of NextGen, the aggressive and ambitious effort led by the FAA to modernize our country’s air transit system, is focused on making improvements in this part of the country.
As Chairman of the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) − a group of aviation industry leadership that gives the FAA feedback on NextGen – I recently led a meeting where we discussed a proposal to invest heavily in turning one airport in the Northeast into a NextGen airport, where all aircraft flying in and out would be equipped with NextGen technology and all air traffic controllers would use NextGen technology and procedures. Our learnings could then be applied to airports across the country.
While it would require significant investment and cooperation from airport officials, airlines and government agencies, we will never make progress if we don’t roll up our sleeves and aggressively tackle this opportunity.