News Release

Study: New Technology Can Increase New York’s Airport Capacity, Reduce Delays

New runway at JFK among the possible solutions; GPS and other technology can increase each runway's capacity by 50 percent at JFK, 45 percent at Newark

Los Angeles (March 4, 2008) – John F. Kennedy International Airport could reduce delays and increase capacity by adding a new runway between two existing runways, according to a new study by the Reason Foundation.

Even with the new runway, which could safely be built between runways 4R and 4L, JFK would still have runway spacing that is greater than the separation between runways at today’s San Francisco International Airport and similar to Boston’s Logan International.

“Paving down the middle, basically adding another runway between two existing JFK runways, would do wonders to cut New York’s travel delays,” said Robert Poole, an adviser to the last four presidential administrations and director of transportation studies at Reason Foundation. “We have the technology to do this and it is time to implement it. Current runway spacing requirements stem from obsolete 20th-century technology. New technologies based on GPS, along with advanced cockpit displays, will make it safe to operate closely spaced parallel runways, even in reduced visibility conditions.”

The Reason Foundation report highlights numerous technological improvements expected to be implemented as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen efforts, which will completely revamp the nation’s air traffic control system over the next two decades. Full implementation of some of these new systems would increase runway throughput at JFK by 50 percent and by as much as 45 percent at Newark Liberty International. Reduced spacing on approaches would also permit an additional 10 percent throughput on LaGuardia’s runways.

With so much attention focused on temporary solutions to today’s debilitating air travel delays, the long-term capacity problems at the nation’s major airports are being ignored, Poole said.

Air travel is expected to increase 64 percent between 2005 and 2020. By 2015, U.S. airports are expected to handle one billion passengers a year. And by 2025, eight of the country’s largest metro areas – Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco – will need more airport capacity than their current runways can provide, with current technology and procedures.

The Reason Foundation study reveals a number of ways to expand capacity at the existing airports in these cities without increasing their physical size, thereby avoiding costly and prolonged battles over condemning land and mitigating noise impacts. The report also details how the NextGen air traffic system can increase arrival and departure rates, reduce weather delays, and decrease noise and environmental impacts.

“It’s important for New York and other major metro areas to start planning to expand their airport capacities based on what these new technologies will permit, looking forward rather than backward,” said Viggo Butler, former president of Lockheed Air Terminal and author of the Reason Foundation report. “That will allow areas to reap the economic benefits that come with continued growth in air service without the protracted battles over land acquisition and environmental impacts that would occur if the airports could only expand capacity by adding large amounts of land area.”

Full Report Online

The full study, Increasing Airport Capacity Without Increasing Airport Size, is available online at:

Reason Foundation’s airport-related research and commentary is here:

About Reason

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed monthly magazine, Reason. For more information, please visit


Viggo Butler, Study Author, Reason Foundation, (818) 360-6609
Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Studies, Reason Foundation, (310) 292-2386
Chris Mitchell, Director of Media Relations, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109