By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune Transportation Writer
May 31, 2000

Airline pilots serving O'Hare International Airport are resoundingly rejecting a recommendation by their unions to boycott a runway procedure that has been the focus of safety concerns at some of the nation's busiest airports, air traffic officials said Tuesday.

As a result, flight operations went smoothly at O'Hare on the first business day after a long holiday weekend, city aviation officials said.

Tuesday was the first day since the boycott call was issued last week that wind conditions above O'Hare were acceptable for air-traffic controllers to ask pilots to conduct the capacity-enhancing maneuver in which planes take off and land simultaneously on intersecting runways.

"We managed to stay out of delays today because three out of four pilots are accepting the Land And Hold Short Operation clearance," said a controller at O'Hare Tower. "I'm not at all surprised, because 14 Right is a ridiculously long piece of concrete to stop on, and the pilots know that refusing [LAHSO] will have an adverse economic effect on their airlines as well as inconveniencing the passengers."

Spokesmen for the Air Line Pilots Association and the Allied Pilots Association, which had also advised its members to not perform LAHSO, were unavailable for comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, canceled a meeting scheduled for Wednesday that was aimed at reaching a new accord on LAHSO with pilots, controllers and officials from major airlines. No reason was given for the cancellation.

An FAA traffic-management report estimated that 25 percent of the pilots at O'Hare are refusing requests to conduct the procedure, which is called a Land And Hold Short Operation because the airplanes arriving on O'Hare's Runway 14 Right must "stop short" of the runway's intersection with Runway 27 Left, where other planes cleared to depart have been given the right-of-way to cross the intersection.

That represents a modest increase in refusals. Officials said the normal refusal rate among pilots is less than 10 percent, though it is believed to have risen slightly in the past year due to the ongoing dispute over LAHSO between the pilots unions and the FAA. But the pilots unions had expected that the vast majority of pilots would honor the boycott by refusing to conduct the procedure.

The unions say the FAA has not provided adequate procedures to flight crews participating in LAHSO in the event of emergencies causing the arriving aircraft to abort the landing. FAA officials say they are seeking better solutions, although there is no safety threat