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"U.S. airports plan ground restrictions for A380"
Friday, April 27, 2007
U.S. airports plan ground restrictions for A380
By John Crawley
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - U.S. airports planning to accommodate the Airbus
A380 expect restrictions for other aircraft operating near the superjumbo
that could increase ground delays for some flights, congressional
researchers said on Friday.
The General Accountability Office study shows policymakers, airport
operators and airlines are unsure about the impact the European-made
jetliner will have on operations at John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles
International (LAX), and 16 other airports.
But the research suggests the world's biggest passenger plane could slow
ground traffic and lengthen landing and takeoff waits as trailing aircraft
keep their distance from the A380's aerodynamic wake. Those delays could
limit the number of flights airports can handle and cost airlines
financially, depending on the number of A380 flights and when they occur,
the GAO concluded.
"In some cases, all other aircraft on the ground may need to stop completely
while the A380 lumbers through," said Rep. John Mica of Florida, the top
Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives aviation committee and the
panel's former chairman.
Additionally, limiting the A380 to designated runways, taxiways or gates
could compromise air controller flexibility in handling other traffic.
"FAA and industry experts generally agreed that the A380 will add another
element of complexity to airport operations and airspace management," the
GAO said. The FAA continues to study the matter.
Even small delays can increase airline operating costs and carriers would
likely resist schedule changes, especially if the A380 feeds connecting
Airbus, a French-based consortium, noted its recent U.S. test flights went
"These visits have demonstrated clearly that the aircraft is capable of
being operated safely, efficiently and without any significant adverse
impact on U.S. airports," Airbus said in a letter to the GAO.
Airbus also said key airports believe any delays caused by the A380 are
manageable, and that the plane is designed to reduce congestion because of
its sheer seating capacity.
When the double-decked A380 enters service later this year, it will be the
largest commercial plane and the largest introduced since the Boeing 747
nearly 40 years ago. The A380 has a 262-foot wingspan and maximum takeoff
weight of 1.2 million pounds. The A380 can seat up to 850 passengers.
Most U.S. airports are not designed to handle the big jet, but 18 plan to do
so. For instance, JFK and LAX are spending about $300 million for wider
runways and special gate equipment.
Mica sought the study released on Friday and a previous GAO report on
questions he raised about the A380's costs to airports and its potential
impact on capacity and safety.
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