Airport Jams Delay New York Area UNFRIENDLY SKIES

Article excerpt

FOR many passengers, flying in and out of New York City these days takes longer than it used to. The number of delayed flights in and out of the area's three major airports is sharply up.

Together, LaGuardia, Kennedy International, and Newark International airports, the nation's busiest regional complex, handle an average of 2,792 takeoffs and landings a day, or more than 1 million operations a year. Last year the number of flights delayed at each airport - those leaving or arriving more than 15 minutes behind schedule - was well above the 13 percent average increase for the nation as a whole. At LaGuardia alone, delays were up 111 percent.

That upward trend in the New York area has continued this year, though the actual number of landings and takeoffs is down, partly because of the lengthy strike at Eastern Airlines. The number of flights delayed at LaGuardia during a recent five-month period increased 58 percent, for instance, affecting close to one-third of all flight operations, according to William Cahill, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (The Trump and Pan Am shuttles, both for sale, vie for more customers, Page 8.)

While industry and government officials agree that delays are up, they do not agree on the precise cause, nor on the best solution. Airlines say the passenger inconvenience adds up to a serious situation that warrants remedial action by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"The New York area now has the greatest delay problem anywhere in the country," says Air Transport Association (ATA) president Robert Aaronson.

Changes in both FAA traffic procedures and personnel practices are needed to resolve it, he says. FAA facilities in the New York area, just as those elsewhere around the country, have been short of full-performance-level controllers, those able to perform any needed traffic tasks, since President Reagan dismissed 11,400 FAA employees after an August 1981 walkout.

As part of the solution now in New York, the ATA wants to see more newly hired controllers assigned there, more overtime pay available for controllers, and more training for new controllers so that senior employees are free to manage airline traffic. …