2007 Press Releases

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NBAA's Steve Brown Tells Congress: Airline Delays Are a 'Self-Inflicted Wound'

Former FAA Official Says Airline Practices Explain Delays

Contact: Dan Hubbard at (202) 783-9360 or dhubbard@nbaa.org

WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2007 -- Despite airlines' attempts to shift blame for their recent record-setting delays, the commercial airlines' scheduling practices are in fact a leading cause of flight delays, second only to adverse weather, said Steve Brown, senior vice president, operations for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and a former associate administrator for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Services.

Brown's comments were made during testimony today before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

"The U.S. Department of Transportation's [DOT's] own reports contradict the numerous, erroneous allegations from the nation's big airlines over the past several months attempting to blame record delays and increasing congestion on the business aviation community," said Brown.

"In fact, DOT's data shows that at the nation's 10 busiest airports, general aviation accounts for less than 4 percent of all aircraft operations," Brown added, noting that the numbers are so low because general aviation aircraft typically avoid the big airline hubs and instead fly primarily into areas where there are no capacity constraints.

"Based on my years managing the airspace, when there are capacity issues in the air, it's usually because of the problems being caused by airline hub operations on the ground at congested airports," Brown said.

For example, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) has enough capacity normally for 44 departures between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., but the airlines regularly schedule 57 departures. As a result, the gates become full and there's nowhere to put additional airplanes on the ground, so arriving aircraft start backing up in the air, waiting for landing clearance.

Brown noted that, in spite of the airlines' inaccurate claims about the causes of their delays, the general aviation community remains focused on the real issue: expanding system capacity because "when capacity becomes constrained, general aviation is usually the first segment to be pushed out."

Brown pointed to technologies that have been embraced by the general aviation industry that help increase system capacity. Just over two years ago, operators equipped their aircraft with cockpit technology allowing for "reduced vertical separation minimums," or RVSM, which doubled the number of high-altitude routes available in the airspace system.

In addition to its embrace of new technologies for system transformation, Brown referenced the general aviation community's support for legislation to modernize the system.

Brown added, "Our Association represents businesses across the country that use general aviation aircraft to make their business model work. This community clearly has a record of supporting technologies, initiatives and legislation for modernizing the aviation system. In the midst of this debate, the committee should not lose sight of one central point that airline delays are basically a self-inflicted wound that is a by-product of their business practices at major hub airports."

Download Brown's testimony in PDF format at web.nbaa.org/public/govt/testimony/20070926.pdf.

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association, Inc. (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 8,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org.

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