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"When it comes to air travel, safety is the most important thing. But as we work to keep travel as safe as it can be, we should also do everything we can to make it as efficient as it can be."

President Bill Clinton
Friday, March 10, 2000

Today at the White House, President Clinton, joined by heads of several airlines and unions, announced the Spring 2000 Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines and others to reduce air travel delays due to severe weather while maintaining the highest measure of safety. The new initiative, which begins March 12 and will be fully phased in by April 1, will allow the FAA and airlines to collaborate far more closely to minimize disruptions. It will also launch a new website for air travelers to obtain information about what effect weather will have on flight schedules. The President also directed the FAA to develop a plan within 45 days for achieving broader reform of the air traffic control system so as to reduce delays without sacrificing safety.

REDUCING TRAVELERS' TIME ON THE TARMAC. Last year, thunderstorms contributed to record numbers of flight delays and cancellations, particularly from April through August. The Spring 2000 Initiative will enable airlines to operate more flights with fewer delays during severe weather without compromising safety. The initiative has four important features:

  • Improved FAA-Airline Communication. The FAA's high-tech command center in Herndon, Virginia, will have expanded authority to develop national plans, in collaboration with the airlines, for routing planes around problem areas. Using standardized weather forecasts, FAA and airline staff will hold teleconferences throughout the day to address conditions two to six hours into the future.

  • Better Use of Available Air Space. The Department of Defense is working with the FAA to allow use of military airspace off the East Coast to help speed traffic flows in poor weather. The FAA and the airlines have agreed to make better use of lower-level airspace to enable the air traffic control system to handle more traffic at peak travel times. They also have developed a playbook of ready-made alternate routes to take aircraft around storm activity.

  • New Technology. For the first time, the FAA and the airlines will all use the same weather information - a state-of-the-art forecast tool provided by the National Weather Service - to decide how to deal with storms. An FAA website will provide airline dispatchers across the country with real-time information on the national plan. A shared database of current flight information will allow the FAA and airlines to collaborate on plans and decision-making.

  • Website for Travelers. Starting on April 3, the FAA will make available to the general public a website designed to provide up-to-the-minute information on weather conditions and significant disruptions in the air traffic control system.

REFORMING THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEM. The President asked the FAA to report to him in 45 days with a plan for achieving broader reform of the air traffic control system. The four guiding principles are:

  • Safety must not be compromised;
  • Rapidly growing passenger demand must be accommodated;
  • The air traffic control system should operate more like a business, with a focus on performance and customer needs, while charging commercial users based on the cost of air traffic control services; and
  • Jobs and rural economic development must be protected.

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