Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 10, 2000


President Clinton, joined by the heads of several airlines and unions, today will announce the Spring 2000 Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines and others to reduce air travel delays due to severe weather while maintaining the highest measure of safety. Last year, thunderstorms contributed to record numbers of flight delays and cancellations, particularly from April through August. The FAA and the airlines began working together last Fall to develop a new approach to managing air traffic control operations during severe weather conditions. The new initiative, which begins March 12 and will be fully phased in by April 1, will allow the FAA and the airlines to collaborate far more closely to minimize disruptions. It also will feature a new website for air travelers to get general information about what effect weather will have on flight schedules. The President also will direct the FAA to develop a plan within 45 days for achieving broader reform of the air traffic control system, to reduce delays without sacrificing safety.

Today the President will announce the Spring 2000 Initiative to enable airlines to operate more flights with fewer delays during severe weather, without compromising safety. The initiative has four important features: (1) improved communication between FAA and the airlines, (2) better use of available air space, (3) new technology and tools, and (4) a new website for travelers.

Improved FAA/Airline Communication: The FAA's high-tech command center in Herndon, Virginia, will have expanded authority to develop national plans, in collaboration with the airlines, for routing planes around problem areas. Using standardized weather forecasts, FAA and airline staff will hold teleconferences throughout the day to address conditions two to six hours into the future.

Better Use of Available Air Space: The Department of Defense is working with the FAA to allow use of military airspace off the East Coast to help speed traffic flows in poor weather. The FAA and the airlines have agreed to make better use of lower-level airspace to enable the air traffic control system to handle more traffic at peak travel times. They also have developed a playbook of ready-made alternate routes to take aircraft around storm activity.

New Technology: For the first time, the FAA and the airlines will all use the same weather information -- a state-of-the-art forecast tool provided by the National Weather Service -- to decide how to deal with storms. An FAA website will provide airline dispatchers across the country with real-time information on the national plan. A shared database of current flight information will allow the FAA and airlines to collaborate on plans and decisionmaking.

Website for Travelers: Starting on April 3, the FAA will make available to the general public a website designed to provide up-to-the-minute information on weather conditions and significant disruptions in the air traffic control system. Although passengers will need to contact their airline for information on specific flights, the website will keep passengers better informed, so that they can adapt their travel plans.

PRESIDENT ALSO WILL ASK FAA FOR PLAN ON BROADER REFORM OF THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEM. Although the Spring 2000 Initiative represents an important step, much more needs to be done to make the FAA's air traffic control system as efficient as it is safe. Toward that end, the President today asked the FAA to come back to him in 45 days with a plan for achieving broader reform of the air traffic control (ATC) system. He identified four guiding principles:

Safety must not be compromised: The U.S. has the safest air traffic control system in the world, and we should continue to make safety our highest priority.

Accommodate rapidly growing passenger demand: By 2010, the number of passengers will grow by an estimated 51 percent. To get passengers to their destinations on time, our ATC system must operate at the technological and managerial frontier.

The air traffic control system should operate more like a business: Many other countries run their ATC systems like businesses, and we need to do the same. Above all, this means focusing the management of ATC on performance and the needs of customers -- e.g., by linking capital investment decisions to airline demand for services. In addition, commercial users should pay for ATC services based on the cost of those services.

Protect jobs and rural economic development: ATC reform must not come at the expense of people whose livelihood depends on it, including air traffic controllers and the general aviation community. And it should enhance, not diminish, economic development of rural areas.

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