Huerta reiterated that the reductions could compel O’Hare, at times, to close its North Tower and consolidate all controllers at the Central Tower, which would mean closing one runway. At Kennedy, staffing limitations could sometimes prevent simultaneous use of parallel runways, and at Hartsfield, situations could arise where the airport would not be able to make use of all five of its parallel runways.
Huerta and LaHood, however, concede that only experience will provide data on how each airport is affected, and how much that impact could ripple to other airports in the domestic system.
“This is going to be a very dynamic situation,” Huerta said.
The FAA arrived at its estimates by analyzing traffic levels in 15-min. increments on March 29—a busy travel day with clear weather—and plotting that against the expected reduction in its hourly acceptance rate for arrivals under visual flight rule conditions. That gave it the expected arrival rate if airlines do not change their flight schedules.