O'Hare flights stalled

June 13, 2000


The increasing number of pilots refusing to use controversial landing procedures is contributing to flight delays at O'Hare Airport, officials said today.

But the overall delay rate is still down 25 percent compared with last June, when weather and computer problems and airline overscheduling converged to create the worst tie-ups in memory.

So far this month, about 1.7 percent of the total number of inbound and outbound flights have been delayed because of pilots refusing to perform ``land and hold short'' procedures, which were created 30 years ago to reduce delays, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That 1.7 percent translates into 514 of 30,117 operations, said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

The procedures, which are voluntary for pilots, rarely were refused before last month, when pilots' unions recommended that their members not perform them because of safety concerns.

Molinaro said he's not sure if the number of land-and-hold-short-related delays are up or down because the FAA just started tracking them. He said the figures released today don't include all land-and-hold-short refusals, just the ones causing delays.

Air traffic controllers said land-and-hold-short procedures haven't been performed many days because of wind and rain, but while the procedures are in use, 50 percent to 75 percent of the pilots are refusing them--up from about 25 percent two weeks ago.

Air Line Pilots Association leaders had predicted it would take time before their recommendation trickled down to their pilot members, most of whom now appear to be following it.

Land-and-hold-short procedures involve a plane landing on a runway that intersects with another runway where planes are simultaneously departing. The landing aircraft is supposed to ``hold short'' of the intersection. The procedure allows air traffic controllers to process more planes.

The FAA proposed expanding the practice to general aviation and international flights and other airports on May 27. But the deadline was extended amid safety concerns by pilots, who want more testing of guidelines enlisted when a plane is forced to abort a landing.