The US Federal Aviation Administration is implementing air traffic control (ATC) operational changes designed to quickly ease the ATC gridlock that has led to worsening delays in the USA this summer.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey hopes the short-term "practical steps" will appease US airlines which have become increasingly vocal about the situation. Among the changes is a move to centralise more authority for routing aircraft at the FAA's Command Centre outside Washington DC. Unlike local air traffic centres, the Command Centre "sees the big picture and can change restrictions in the context of overall traffic patterns rather than on the basis of local decisions", says Garvey.

The FAA has also put a cap on the use of unnecessary aircraft in-trail restrictions. Centres across the USA have been told not to increase the aircraft separation without proper co-ordination with the Command Centre. The FAA is amending the "ground-stop" rules under which it decides to hold aircraft on the ground to minimise the number and duration of delays.

The US ATC system has come under increasing fire from US major bosses. In the latest attack James Goodwin, recently installed as head of United Airlines, says: "Chronic air traffic delays we suffer at [Chicago] O'Hare International and elsewhere are killing us."

Source: Flight International