Are America’s Skies too Crowded to be Safe?

Some air traffic controllers say errors are increasing at O’Hare airport as air traffic increases there.

Air traffic is getting even worse in the United States.

Speaking to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, the president of the air traffic controller’s union at the Federal Aviation Administration’s facility in Elgin, Illinois, “We are pushing safety margins…to limits I’ve never seen.” While we realize that unions have their own political agenda and have to be viewed in that light, calling into question the safety of the air traffic system is always a cause for concern.

The air traffic control system is falling behind the growth in air traffic. According to the Journal, 44 percent of all delays in the United States in November were caused by congestion and air-traffic control problems in the nationwide aviation system.

Chicago’s O’Hare airport is in the middle of the growing problem. Only 57.3% of flights arrived at O’Hare on time in November.

As the airways get more crowded, errors become more significant. Air traffic controllers are complaining about staffing shortages that require controllers to work more hours. Controllers’ operational errors are also increasing at airports such as O’Hare. According to one union official, there is a direct correlation between the air traffic count and the number of controller errors.

There is no short-term solution. While it is not possible in many cases, you may want to avoid flying into major hubs such as O’Hare airport.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47