FAA bars foreign pilots from landing side-by-side at SFO

July 30, 2013 9:25:42 PM PDT
On Tuesday there were 90-minute delays at San Francisco International Airport. They're blaming it on weather, but the airport's new landing rules could be compounding the problem.

The FAA is no longer permitting side-by-side landings for foreign flagged carriers at SFO. This follows the deadly Asiana Airlines crash earlier this month. We took a look at how these new rules are impacting travelers.

Before Asiana Flight 214 crashed on the runway, the FAA would routinely allow two airliners to land simultaneously on the airport's two north-south runways, 28 Left and 28 Right, but this past week that stopped.

When the FAA announced it was assigning foreign flagged airlines to come in on GPS instruments rather than visual flight rules, it also instituted another rule change that it didn't make public. The FAA stopped allowing foreign airlines from landing alongside another plane; they now have to come in one at a time.

So when a Korean Air flight landed on Runway 28 Right, 28 Left was temporarily unavailable to any other aircraft.

"It really took effect last couple of days, believe it or not, which has really slowed down the arrivals and departures in and out of San Francisco," said Henry Biernacki, an airline pilot.

Biernacki is a commercial airline pilot who flew into San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon. His plane hours late and he is sure the one-at-a-time approach is only going to make it worse.

"When it's a visual day, they'll usually typically allow 60 arrivals into San Francisco parallel approaches -- meaning simultaneous 28 Left, 28 Right going into effect -- but yesterday they decreased from 60 arrivals down to 45 arrivals in an hour," said Biernacki.

And Beirnacki says that 25 percent decrease is going to have an impact.

"They want to be safe, they want people to be safe being in the United States, but it's also if you're flying in and out of San Francisco like United, Virgin America, Southwest, you're hampering our business model," said Beirnacki.

The model for those domestic carriers lots of flights per day in and out of San Francisco.

"We're getting hit right now because we're not making our on time departures, people aren't connecting, people are going to leave going to another airline because they think it's just us," said Beirnacki.

On Tuesday the FAA responded to our requests by issuing a statement saying, "The FAA is directing foreign carriers to approach SFO by themselves in clear weather, without another aircraft next to them. The FAA has not seen any significant air traffic delays as a result of this procedure."

We did see lots delays especially on arrivals. Michelle Glidden from Salinas waited three hours for her daughter.

"We've been hearing a lot of people complaining about the delays here," said Glidden.

The airport says Tuesday's delays were due in part to weather. So I asked if the airport has experienced an increase in delays over the past week when the weather has been better. We are still waiting to hear back.


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