- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002


The Federal Aviation Administration says it is taking steps, including new air routes and more frequent weather updates, to make planes fly on time as the summer travel season gets under way.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey came to the nation's air traffic control center in Herndon yesterday to outline the agency's latest efforts to reduce delays.

"If the weather cooperates, travelers should arrive at their destinations on time," Mrs. Garvey said, a day before the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, the start of the summer travel season.

To help travelers move through airport checkpoints more quickly, the Transportation Security Administration has issued the following guidelines:

•Arrive early and be patient.

•Bring government-issued photo identification cards.

•Watch for suspicious activities.

•Put cell phones, pagers, keys and change in carry-on bags before going through metal detectors.

•Leave children's toys at home that could be mistaken for weapons.

•Don't bring scissors, pocketknives, corkscrews and other prohibited items on board.

•Don't make jokes about terrorism, weapons or security.

Once the planes are aloft, they can take advantage of new routes through Canadian air space, through areas formerly reserved for the military, and over the Atlantic Ocean for north-south East Coast flights, such as Boston to Miami.

The extra paths will allow airplanes to fly around thunderstorms, rather than have to be held on the ground at airports.

"Some weather is just plain unsafe," Mrs. Garvey said. "But we can manage severe weather operations better."

There are also new routes to help reduce congestion in the Boston-Washington-Chicago triangle.

In addition, the FAA plans to provide airlines and controllers with updated weather reports every two hours rather than every four hours, allowing them to react more quickly to storms, Mrs. Garvey said.

And new technology allows FAA officials to more accurately project the paths and intensity of thunderstorms, meaning controllers can more quickly allow planes to take off and land rather than delay them to wait to see where the storm is headed, said Jack Kies, an FAA program director.

While there are still fewer passengers flying this year as compared with the same period in 2001, the number of flights is close to pre-September 11 levels, Mrs. Garvey said.

Indeed, Mr. Kies said he expected more passengers to fly this summer than last year.

In March, the FAA's annual forecast projected that air travel wouldn't return to pre-September 11 levels until 2003.

The AAA, meanwhile, expects 4.1 million airline passengers over the Memorial Day weekend, down 7 percent from the 4.4 million who flew in 2001.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that the number of airline passengers declined last year compared with 2000, the first year-to-year drop since 1991. Airlines carried 622 million passengers in 2001, down from 666 million in 2000. The agency blamed the drop on the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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