NASA recently flight-tested an advanced jet engine able to reach seven times the speed of sound. Talk was heard of hypersonic airliners zooming from New York City to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. If such a flight were made today, however, chances are good that the plane would be forced to circle over LAX for a few hours before it could be cleared to land.
As the numbers of airline passengers and flights increase, the nation's air traffic control (ATC) system is being stretched beyond its limits. With one in four flights expected to be late to the gate this summer, flying has become one of the more consistently annoying aspects of modern American life. Estimates indicate that delays cost airlines and air travelers some $5 billion in lost productivity every year. Along with inadequate runway capacity and the overscheduling of flights, the ATC system is a major culprit in this woeful display. And it's only going to get worse as today's U.S. flying public grows from 670 million a year to more than a billion within a decade.
This article was originally published with the title Air Traffic Out of Control.