John Buscher and David Whitestone of Holland & Knight’s Washington, D.C. office, successfully advised United Airlines through the federal appropriations process to obtain $5.5 million in funding for the installation of upgraded navigation equipment at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to redesign airspace corridors at the airport. The FAA announced these congestion mitigation initiatives last week.
According to published reports, Transportation Department officials estimate that 40% of U.S. flights each day are affected by backups at O’Hare, especially in poor weather conditions. The upgraded navigation equipment includes transmitting devices buried in the runways, which will help direct planes landing on autopilot and allow for operation in conditions where visibility is extremely poor. “These measures will yield immediate benefits for air travelers in Chicago and the millions more nationwide whose travel is disrupted because of congestion at O’Hare,” Buscher said. The upgraded navigational equipment, which will be installed next month, is expected to significantly reduce the number of delays and cancellations, with estimated cost savings of $40 million annually to those airlines operating at O’Hare. In addition, it will provide a major operational improvement for United Airlines because of its significant operations at the airport.
“We are pleased to see that the FAA agreed with United Airlines on the importance of installing this new navigation equipment and the operational improvements that can be realized by redesigning the airspace around O’Hare Airport,” Buscher added. Recognizing the safety and economic benefits of these improvements, Congress recently urged the FAA to expedite the O’Hare improvements in a bill that provides funding for the Department of Transportation and other agencies. “Only two airports were mentioned in the legislation and one of them happens to be O’Hare Airport,” noted Buscher. “The recommendations advocated by our client, United Airlines, specifically urged the FAA to install surface detection radar to better handle aircraft on the airport ground, improve operations and avoid runway incursions. Further, United Airlines requested that the FAA implement airspace redesign for the O’Hare traffic environment.”
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