U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced on Wednesday that she will appoint an aviation "czar" to coordinate regional airspace issues and address the problems of congestion and delays in New York's busy airspace. The czar will serve as director of the newly created New York Integration Office. Some new measures will be put in place now and others are in the works for next summer. "These new measures will cut delays, protect consumer choice, support New York's economy, and allow for new flights as we bring new capacity online," Peters said. The strategies will include new takeoff patterns at Newark and Philadelphia International Airport, a cap on operations per hour at JFK International Airport and allowing shorter flights to operate at lower altitudes to open more room for long-haul flights at higher altitudes.
Peters also said the FAA and Defense Department will open military airspace to commercial flights over the Atlantic seaboard from the evening of Dec. 21 to the morning of Dec. 26, and from the evening of Dec. 28 to the morning of Jan. 2. In addition, western military airspace will be opened from Dec. 21 to the morning of Jan. 2 to help accommodate flights in and out of southern California. "These Holiday Express lanes in the sky will give airlines the wiggle room they need to avoid backups, evade weather, and dodge delays," Peters said. Similar "express lanes" that were opened during the Thanksgiving travel period were met with some skepticism; it's unclear if they had any real impact on air travel congestion.