Summer Aviation Forecast: Sunny, and Slow

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. Winds are calm, the runways are dry. Then comes the announcement: Your flight is delayed or canceled due to weather conditions.

Such cancellations are often due to circumstances that passengers cannot see—weather issues, for example, between the flight’s originating airport and its destination that can disrupt air travel when conditions outside seem perfect for flying.

Weather is the cause of 69 percent of air travel delays, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with May, June and July the peak periods of disruption. Poor weather conditions caused by summer thunderstorms, lightning and high winds can result in delays that compound quickly.

Huntley Lawrence

“Last year, weather was the No. 1 for delays, and 2017 was one of the worst in terms of weather impacts for airports in the northeast,” said Port Authority Aviation Director Huntley A. Lawrence, who also noted that delays can be caused by low clouds and poor visibility, while extreme heat can impact aircraft performance.

Because the Port Authority operates in the busiest and most complex airspace in the country, with three major airports (LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy) as well as Stewart International Airport, and Teterboro Airport, summer air traffic delays are particularly problematic. Combined, these five airports support between 4,800-5,200 flight operations a day.

Lawrence said thunderstorms located even several hundred miles from the New York-New Jersey airspace can significantly reduce the “throughput” of Port Authority airports. A minor storm along a departure or arrival route can change that flight’s route by 50 to 100 miles or more, with associated delays often exceeding 90 minutes. The domino effect created by poor weather conditions in one area of the country can extend to many other airports.

Contrast the weather factors with other contributors to flight delays among all classes of aircraft, and the gap is significant. Higher passenger volume and added demand is cited by the FAA for 19 percent of delays. Runway unavailability causes six percent of delays, while equipment failure makes up one percent.

The Port Authority has invested nearly $200 million since 2008 on initiatives to reduce delays, including the installation of high-speed taxiways that help move planes faster on and off runways, and a traffic metering system at JFK that shortens wait times on the airfield. In addition, other planned initiatives include runway widening at JFK and the installation of a Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS)—a satellite-based precision landing system for improved airport access—at JFK and LaGuardia. The system already is operating at Newark Liberty.

“Despite all the improvements we’ve made on the ground, the efficiency of the national airspace is still lagging,” Lawrence said.

The Port Authority is part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) integration working group, comprising industry experts from the FAA, major airlines and the airports. Together, more than 100 recommendations to improve air traffic and reduce delays along the Northeast corridor, many of them focused on Port Authority airports, have been made.

Similar to a GPS-based system, NextGen evolves the nation’s air traffic control system from a radar-based system to a satellite-based system, enhancing efficiency and providing pilots with greater access to useful information, particularly during poor weather. NextGen also offers better and more precise communications across the airspace system, uses improved onboard technology, and standardizes access to weather information to help guide airplanes.

“All stakeholders—the Port Authority and hundreds of other airports, the FAA, the airlines, and other aviation industry leaders—are sharply focused on implementing improvements that will benefit our customers,” Lawrence said. “We’re all working toward a system that will help improve airspace efficiency by making flights shorter and more predictable. That ultimately will reduce the impact of weather delays.”

Posted in aviation, FAA, history of aviation, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark, Newark Liberty International Airport, NextGen, Stewart International Airport, Teterboro Airport, Uncategorized

For the Natoles, It’s All in the TBA Family

By Lenis Rodrigues and Claire Elamrousi, Media Relations Staff

When Port Authority Tunnel and Bridge Agent Nicholas Natole recently helped save the life of a bus passenger in cardiac arrest outside the Lincoln Tunnel, he regarded it as just another day on the job. But being a TBA and administering medical assistance, providing traffic control, rescuing passengers and putting out fires isn’t just a job for Natole. It’s a family tradition.

Nick’s brother, Anthony, currently works alongside him as an agent at the Lincoln Tunnel. The brothers got an early education in the field from their father Joseph, now retired after 37 years as a TBA and training instructor. They not only served together professionally, but continue to volunteer together as firefighters in their home town of Hopelawn, N.J., a section of Woodbridge.

TBA blog

Nicholas, Joseph and Anthony Natole (L-R)

As a child, Nick’s father would show him the emergency trucks they used for work. Nick even got to play with the lights and sirens. His father’s coworkers would take him to get soda in New York, and he fell in love with the job.

“It was really fun and exciting working alongside my father and brother,” he said. “The stories he told us as children came to life when we were all sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel garage together. I couldn’t be any prouder to wear the same uniform that he did for all those years.”

Nick, a TBA for three years, recalls the one time the three of them had the opportunity to work together. They had gotten a call regarding a disabled NJ Transit bus leaking fuel. When the brothers arrived at the scene, they realized they needed more resources to contain the fuel spill. So Nick called his father to give them a hand, and two generations worked side by side to clean up the mess.

“It was a special time for me and my sons to work together on this,” said Joseph, who worked as a TBA instructor the last five years of his career, served primarily at the Lincoln Tunnel. “Being able to be a role model to them is a dream come true as their father.”

Anthony Natole has been a TBA for about four years, most of that time assigned to the Lincoln Tunnel. “The most fulfilling part of this job is that for close to two years, my brother, father and I shared the same patches and job,” he said. “There is nothing better than doing what you love to do with your own family.”

Joseph Natole was awarded nine green crosses during his time as a TBA. A green cross is given for rescuing a person from a car accident. He earned one award for saving people from a bus that lost control and struck the Lincoln Tunnel garage in 1988. Another time, he rescued several people by cutting the roof from a pickup truck accident inside the tunnel that had trapped several people inside.

On average, he said, TBA agents respond to at least one medical emergency a day on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels.

“We get called in all the time. Not just for people driving, but for toll collectors who are hurt, police officers, maintenance people,” the elder Natole said. “People think it’s just about helping someone with a flat tire. But if you’re on a bridge or in a tunnel and something happens, our job becomes very important.”

Gerard Lindenmeier, the Port Authority’s general manager for the Lincoln Tunnel, said the family has made a significant contribution to the traveling public. “The mantle has now been passed unto the next generation of Natoles,” he said. “We are in good hands.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Climbing the Outerbridge. Is That in the Intern Handbook?

By Thomas V. Terzulli, Media Relations Staff

Starting a new job or internship is all about getting used to new surroundings. There’s a new office, a new boss, new co-workers and even some new lunch spots. That’s no different with me, except my new view didn’t come courtesy of the inside of a cubicle. Not even a full week into my tenure as a Port Authority summer intern, I found myself suspended nearly 200 feet in the air at the top of the Outerbridge Crossing.

I wouldn’t have been there without Rudy King, my Media Relations officemate who I met on the first day of my summer internship at the Port Authority. Our journey began with a question: “Are you afraid of heights?” Being a rollercoaster aficionado, I answered with a resounding no. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to accompany Rudy to the bridge on what would be just my third day. How could I pass it up? None of the other interns were asked to scale a bridge.

Our presence was needed for a media opportunity. A reporter from News 12 New Jersey wanted to do a story about Port Authority bridge painters, a fearless crew that spends their days suspended hundreds of feet in the air, twisting, turning and maneuvering themselves in an effort to hand-paint the agency’s massive structures. Who could possibly want to do that?  I was about to find out.

 

Terzulli

Port Authority intern Tom Terzulli prepares for an Outerbridge Crossing climb.

Rudy and I walked into a small trailer on the Staten Island side of the hulking bridge, which connects to Perth Amboy on the New Jersey side. There, we were introduced to three bridge painting veterans, all with more than 20 years of experience painting in the air. What struck me first was their calm. They work at a job where danger is a constant companion. But they were at ease, shooting the breeze like life-long friends would do at their favorite pub.

They could see I didn’t share the same care-free disposition. As a result, there was constant reassurance, a chorus of “you’ll be okay” and “it’s not that bad.” But there was also a fair amount of joking, with one painter vowing to not scare me “too much.” Any type of conversation was calming, as long as it wasn’t about the climb. We put on our gear, including a neon Port Authority vest and a harness able to hold up to 1,000 pounds. I thanked my lucky stars I didn’t weigh more than that.

When the time came, we hopped in an official Port Authority van and drove to a spot just in front of the Staten Island toll plaza. Being a native Staten Islander, I had driven over the bridge too many times to count, but I had never even come close to doing what I was about to attempt.

We then arrived at the middle of the span and stood by the side of the road. I must have looked up hundreds of times in a matter of minutes, still unsure how or why I ended up here. The News 12 reporter went up first and Rudy after him, leaving me with one of the three painters operating my way up.

Our ride was a motorized elevator scaffolding, where the harness from earlier would come in handy. Had I slipped on the platform, it was the only thing between me and the water. As the elevator rose I tried everything to suppress my fear. I stayed on my knees and refused to look down, blabbering on to one of the painters about whatever I could come up with.

Painting Crew

The painting crew, with News 12 New Jersey correspondent Jim Murdoch (center front)

Then we reached the top, where my journey came to end. The elevator stopped a foot short of the top of the bridge. I was instructed to climb from the scaffolding to the top of the structure. Nothing but imagination separated my back from the Arthur Kill nearly 200 feet below. Every ounce of my being was telling me not to do it, and I eventually listened.

Even though I didn’t reach the summit, I left with an immense appreciation for the people who perform one of the toughest jobs on earth — and wondering if Day 4 of my summer internship would be half as exciting as Day 3.

Posted in Uncategorized