US FAA relocating control of Newark, NJ, airspace to reduce congestion

By Thomson Reuters Mar 20, 2024 | 5:44 PM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday it will relocate control of the Newark, New Jersey, airspace area to Philadelphia to address staffing issues and congested traffic in the New York City area.

The announcement comes ahead of what could be a record summer travel season. Airlines this week forecast record travel this spring.

The FAA, which has struggled with air traffic staffing issues, said it and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) signed a memorandum to relocate control of Newark at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (N90) to Philadelphia Tower/TRACON by the end of June.

The FAA said the change will help “meet continued traffic demand in the busy Northeast Corridor.” Several controllers are expected to voluntarily transfer to Philadelphia.

New York TRACON is one of the busiest U.S. facilities overseeing among most complex American airspace.

The FAA in 2023 had said it planned to reassign approximately 100 square miles of Newark airspace from N90 to Philadelphia to address staffing issues.

United Airlines has a hub at Newark International Airport, which often faces significant delays because of congestion and air traffic staffing issues. The carrier reduced flights last summer after flight disruptions and CEO Scott Kirby sharply criticized the FAA performance adding “Newark has more flights scheduled than the physical infrastructure can handle.”

The FAA extended cuts to minimum flight requirements at New York City-area airports through October because of staffing issues.

Under minimum flight requirements, airlines can lose their takeoff and landing slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time. The waiver allows airlines to not fly some flights and still retain slots.

A government watchdog said in June critical ATC facilities face significant staffing challenges, posing risks to air traffic operations and said N90 staffing was at just 54%.

At several facilities, controllers are working mandatory overtime and six-day work weeks to cover shortages and the agency is about 3,000 controllers behind staffing targets. President Joe Biden this month sought funding to hire 2,000 controllers in the coming year.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)