Specter Introduces Amendments to FAA Bill to Reduce Airport Noise, Flight Over-scheduling
Amendments Follow Specter's Field Hearing on Philadelphia International Airport
U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) filed two amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act which is currently being considered by the Senate. The amendments seek to reduce overflights over Delaware County and delays caused by flight over-scheduling at Philadelphia International Airport. Senator Specter investigated both of these issues at a field hearing he convened in Philadelphia on Friday, April 25th.
During the field hearing, Senator Specter questioned FAA's Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell on airspace redesign and flight scheduling practices at Philadelphia International Airport. Sturgell acknowledged that planes are sometimes directed to fly a route over residential suburbs in Delaware County as a primary option - not as a congestion-relief option as the FAA earlier indicated would be the case.
"The FAA has been unwilling to honor its commitment by limiting use of the headings to only those times when 10 or more aircraft are waiting because they claim that doing so would require them to conduct a reevaluation and analysis," said Senator Specter. "This amendment will ensure that communities are not frivolously disrupted by overflights but still give air traffic controllers the option of using dispersal headings as a relief option when the airport is most congested."
The first amendment seeks to hold the FAA to their original commitment that aircrafts would be sent over residential areas only when necessary to relieve congestion. The amendment would prohibit the FAA from using dispersal departure headings at Philadelphia International Airport, causing flights over Delaware County unless 10 or more aircraft are waiting to depart.
The second amendment seeks to reduce significant delays on departures and arrivals by encouraging airlines to responsibly schedule flights. The amendment would require the FAA Administrator to convene a meeting of airlines to discuss voluntary flight schedule reductions where over-scheduling was determined to have an adverse effect on delays. If an agreement cannot be reached on voluntary flight schedule reductions, then the Administrator, working with the affected airport, would be required to take action to ensure that flight schedule reductions are implemented. Additionally, the Administrator must submit a report to Congress every three months on flight scheduling at the nation's 35 busiest airports.
"Airlines continually schedule more flights than airports can physically handle," Senator Specter said. "This amendment is a measure that will force the FAA to more effectively deal with delays."
The Senate is expected to resume consideration of the FAA Reauthorization Act on Tuesday.