Upgrades needed to keep up with more passengers and prevent delays, officials say

Travelers could face increasing delays if air traffic control systems aren’t upgraded in the next decade to deal with the expected growth in air traffic, according to federal officials.

Domestic passenger traffic is expected to nearly double to 1 billion passengers annually in the next decade, according to the federal Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure.

In anticipation, federal officials are pushing for improvements to air traffic control technology that could ensure more planes take off and land on time, in all weather conditions.

San Francisco International Airport has experienced a 6 percent increase in passengers since 2002. During that same period, between 17 percent and 33 percent of all SFO flights have been delayed, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The main reasons for delays are lateness from other airports and the area’s characteristic fog, said Ivar Satero, deputy director of airport design and construction.

In foggy weather, SFO is unable to land two aircraft side by side, so planes are forced to line up and land one-by-one, decreasing landings from 60 to 30 per hour.

“Seventy-five percent of the time, our weather is clear,” Satero said. “We’re talking about addressing the 25 percent of the time that results in delays for our passengers and the new technology that could take a bite out of that.”

The Federal Aviation Administration seeks to phase out ground radar and replace it with orbiting satellites, similar to global positioning systems found in new cars, said Jim Coon, majority staff director for the aviation subcommittee.

In 2004, SFO invested $20 million in bad weather landing technology, allowing the airport to complete as many 38 landings per hour during foggy weather. However, the technology in ground radar and can only be used when visibility due to fog is roughly four miles, Satero said. If visibility is more than four miles, FAA regulations say the technology cannot be used.

As the federal government decides how to spend about $9.6 billion nationwide through fiscal year 2009 to upgrade and replace these systems, some of which are 50 years old, SFO officials are hoping the unique weather may qualify the airport as a prime candidate for other new technology.

The San Francisco Airport Commission earlier this year approved a technology study into this issue, which should be completed sometime this summer, Satero said.

Federal officials are still unsure exactly how much to spend in the next decade, and budgeting will likely be the main item to hash out when the committee discusses this issue again, Coon said.

tramroop@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read