Lynchburg flights stay grounded

The Lynchburg Regional Airport experienced an unusually high number of weather-related cancellations in January, but faces cancellations of a different type in the near future.

According to Lynchburg Regional Airport Director Mark Courtney, the airport had nine cancellations in the month of January, which was up from the three they had last year.

Cockpit — Lynchburg weather keeps planes on the ground. Photo credit: Karly Kryza

The airport in Lynchburg runs up to six flights per day, according to Courtney. Most of the cancellations were affected by weather conditions at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, which is US Airways’ hub for the commuter planes coming from Lynchburg.

Courtney also said that while cancellations were higher than usual, they were not uncommon for the month of January.

The airport also faces some potential problems in March and in later months due to Federal spending cuts that are now in effect as of March 1. The cuts will result in a loss of funding for traffic control towers at more than 200 airports, according to Courtney.

The cut is also in addition to more than $600 million of cuts from the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. While the spending cuts have now been enacted, travelers may not feel the full effects until closer to April, LaHood said.

According to Courtney, the good news is that the airport will remain open, despite this.

“We will have to come up with a contingency plan to be able to smooth operations in an uncontrolled environment,” Courtney said.

Now that the sequestration has gone into effect, however, it could cause some problems for students flying in and out of Lynchburg for spring break, according to Courtney.
The airport will have to adjust how it manages flights and make “procedural changes” in order to keep everything running smoothly, Courtney said. He also explained that the majority of delays will stem from larger airports that will in turn affect travel to and from Lynchburg.

For example, if a flight coming into the Charlotte airport in order to transfer passengers to a flight to Lynchburg is delayed, either the Lynchburg flight will be delayed, or those passengers will miss that flight.

“Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer controllers on staff,” LaHood said. “Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country.”

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