Runway Backup at Atlanta's Int'l Airport

Repaving makes this fall a season of flight delays

"As far as I'm concerned, there are no big deals," McNally said, turning back to flight delays. "If one flight falls through, we'll take the next one. It's better than stewing about it, which doesn't make it any better."

Given the reality of the runway repaving project, the airport is handling its flight volume "exceptionally well," said Molin, the FAA director. The four runways that are open are managed so that, on busy times for departures, three are used for outgoing planes and the other is for incoming planes. The situation is reversed during peak times for arrivals, he said.

In order to manage flights to and from Hartsfield-Jackson, and all the airports in the country, the FAA has an extensive communications systems for airlines, general aviation such as corporate jets, and airport operators, Molin said. The goal is to tweak departure schedules so that arriving flights will have a place to land, instead of circling interminably or being diverted to another airport.

Every two hours, the FAA's command station in Herndon, Va., conducts a telephone conference for up to 60 callers, Molin said. They talk about weather conditions and issues such as runway construction that can affect flight schedules. In between calls, the parties file updates on an FAA Web page, Molin said.

The runway at Hartsfield-Jackson is to reopen in early November, said Felicia Browder, the airport's spokeswoman. The project will cost about $90 million. While acknowledging the distress of delays, Browder said the setback of reverting to four runways underscores the value of the runway that opened in time for Memorial Day travel.

"This reconstruction has had an impact, but it is temporary and is a reminder of just how important it is that we opened our fifth runway," she said. "We are asking people to excuse our dust and bear with us until we get this project complete."

Computer-assisted reporting specialist Megan Clarke contributed to this article.


* Average number of delays per day after Sept. 8 attributed to runway capacity: 145

* Before Sept 8: less than one

* Since Sept. 8, 11,865 flights were delayed for various reasons, for a total of almost 8,200 hours

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