President Bush will again open airspace normally reserved for military use, in the hopes of easing congestion in the air this holiday season. The airspace will include corridors between Florida and Maine during the Thanksgiving holiday, and expand to include the West Coast for Christmas. The president made a similar order last year.
Whether or not opening up airspace actually helps reduce congestion, however, is up for debate. While Thanksgiving travel was relatively smooth a year ago, many observers don't attribute this to the president's decision to open military airspace. David Castelveter, vice president for communications at the Air Transport Association, told the AP that President Bush's move "had marginal impact," and "the main reason for the good performance we saw over both holidays last year was good weather."
"It's all for show, frankly," said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He suggested the Bush administration should have focused on finding long-term solutions for the many problems at the FAA that cause delays and congestion in the first place.
Well, opening military airspace for a few days sure can't hurt, but to me it feels a bit like plugging a leaky dam with chewing gum. Will the president's move mean anything if a storm crashes the Northeast, or if it's snowing at O'Hare? My guess is it won't. And until the underlying problems behind delays and traffic—understaffed air traffic control offices, outdated radar technology—are addressed, we'll have little hope of repairing our broken-down system. Memo to the president-elect: Get on it.
But I'm just one person—what do you think? Does the president's move give you hope that Thanksgiving travel will be smooth this year? Do you think we're all at the mercy of the weather, no matter what? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.