Feb. 26, 2001

CONTACT: Doug Church
202.628-5451, x4802


MIAMI As a controller at ground zero of the U.S. air traffic system the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Elgin, Ill. Don Porter has a front row seat for the marvelous, non-stop choreographed show that plays out daily. The task is daunting: Squeeze too many airplanes onto too few runways while ensuring the safest skies in the world.

This week, Porter will be sharing his perspective on how the lack of capacity at U.S. airports is contributing to the problem of flight delays, air traffic congestion and limited airspace. Porter will be speaking at the Institute for International Research’s Aviation Series, which will examine strategies and technologies to maximize airspace and airport capacity.

The conference, at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay today through Wednesday, will include presentations from many aviation industry leaders. Among the topics is an update on the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to redraw the National Airspace System, the progress made in the implementation and allocation of funding of the Free Flight program, an overview of the latest navigational and surveillance technologies available, the implications of the increase in regional jet traffic and a complete analysis of runway and airport capacities across the country.

Porter, the safety and technology representative at Chicago TRACON, is eager to discuss capacity, which the National Air Traffic Controllers Association believes should be the focus of the contentious debate on how to improve air travel.

"From working primarily with traffic in and out of O’Hare, I can tell you the balancing act of using limited capacity to meet the overwhelming demand of air travel is an extremely challenging job," Porter said. "As an important part of this industry, controllers believe the finger-pointing and blame games must be replaced by a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. Some talk about overhauling the air traffic control system, even suggesting the risky scheme of privatization, which NATCA fiercely opposes. But I can assure you: Positive results are only going to come from creating more places to put all these planes."

Porter will outline NATCA’s position that the delay problem is much like a three-legged stool: The first leg involves capacity enhancement, such as new technology and air traffic procedures. But it’s important to note this will bring only fractional increases in capacity compared with new runway construction.

The second leg is our nation’s aviation infrastructure airports, runways, taxiways and roadways. The third leg is the one the users rarely address, which is demand management the prudent use of the air traffic system within the national treasure which is our airspace.