O'Hare slots draw NBAA ire

 - October 10, 2007, 10:13 AM

Although members of the House aviation subcommittee commended the FAA for its efforts to address delays at Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the short-term, NBAA expressed frustration over a decision to limit general aviation flights into the facility by reinstituting the airport reservation office.

In written testimony submitted to the subcommittee, new NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen pointed out that business aircraft represent a very small percentage of operations at major airports such as ORD.

“While we appreciate the need to address capacity concerns at O’Hare,” he said, “restricting access to one particular airport without understanding and addressing the implications for the entire air traffic system is unwise.”

Bolen said that NBAA has been aware of increased congestion at the nation’s airports for years and recognizes that the FAA must take steps to mitigate that congestion.

“However, it is critical that we understand the consequences of airport restrictions and the domino effect they have on airports and airspace throughout the system,” he argued.

He reminded the lawmakers that since the overnight destruction of Chicago Meigs Field last year, more than 20,000 aircraft operations have been forced to use Chicago Midway International Airport and O’Hare, the next closest airports to downtown Chicago.

“This is a classic example of how local decisions at one airport affect other airports in the system,” added Bolen. “This should be a wake-up call–the aviation industry and government entities must look at airport access on a regional and national level, not just on an individual airport level. One obvious solution is to invest more heavily in the reliever airport system.”

At a hearing last month, the aviation subcommittee stressed that long-term relief at O’Hare and the nation’s other airports must come from increasing capacity, redesigning national airspace and modernizing the ATC system.

ORD is currently the nation’s busiest and most delayed airport. Because of its location and hub status for more than one airline, problems at O’Hare cause delays that ripple throughout the entire aviation system.

Recently, the FAA worked with airlines serving the airport–including American and United, the two hub carriers–to obtain voluntary service cuts to help alleviate delay problems.

Chicago plans to build four new runways and two runway extensions at ORD, and the state of Illinois wants to build a South Suburban Airport near Peotone, about 40 nm south-southeast of O’Hare. However, even with approval, these projects are still several years away.