Friday, September 28, 2007

More on air travel congestion

It's not your imagination, air travel delays are increasing (free WSJ Digg link). There are numerous reasons for this, as the stories I've linked to discuss. (Overscheduling infuriates me the most.) Here's another:

Yet one fundamental shortcoming in the nation's air-traffic system has gone little discussed: the federal map of routes, largely unchanged since the 1950s, that airplanes are required to follow.

Just like rush-hour freeways on the ground, the nation's airways, particularly on the East Coast, have become choked with traffic. Block one with a small thunderstorm and jets sit on the ground waiting for hours because there's no room for them on other routes.

How were these airways established? It's an interesting bit of trivia.

The nation's airways evolved from air-traffic routes established in the 1920s when the government was developing airmail service. Pilots followed established ground routes, generally flying low enough to trace actual roads and spot one geographic landmark, then another. In 1926, the Air Commerce Act authorized the government to build a network of other navigational aids, beginning with bonfires that were later replaced by illuminated towers and, eventually, radio beacons and radar.

That's right, we're still using routes that were originally marked by bonfires. Has anyone informed these people that Woodrow Wilson is no longer President?