Delays, cancellations no longer expected

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New regulations at Yampa Valley Regional Airport that some feared would cause dozens of delays and flight cancellations this winter could be relaxed by the end of the week.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently imposed regulations that affect instrument approaches, or approaches in which pilots cannot see the ground. The new rules, which affect all airports, require aircrafts to break out of cloud cover at higher altitudes and to have greater ground visibility.

The new rules have caused some delays and cancellations into YVRA, Airport Manager Jim Parker said. More disruptions were expected. If the rules had been applied last winter, weather data shows that during at least one week, no planes would have been able to land in the airport, Parker said.

But thanks to help from the FAA, flights into the airport now are allowed to use special approach minimums that require the same cloud altitude and visibility as last year.

Those special rules should be in place as soon as Sunday or as late as Dec. 13, Parker said.

"The FAA really pulled the stops out to get this because of the potential impact we would have going into our holiday season," Parker said.

The process of getting the special rules could have taken four or five months, but instead was completed in weeks. "Everyone worked very closely together to get this thing going," he said.

Various offices of the FAA still have to give the special rules final approval, after which airlines must let the FAA know that they are qualified to fly under the special rules. All major airlines should be able to certify that their aircraft can climb at the gradient required under the special rules, Parker said.

Airlines or corporate planes that do not get that certification will have to use the newly instituted standards.

Parker emphasized that flights using the old standards are safe. The change simply gets the airport "back where we were."

More than 17,000 people have booked flights for the holidays, Parker said, with more bookings expected as the season approaches. Flight delays and cancellations could have posed major problems.

The new regulations have caused delays and cancellations when bad weather has rolled in during the past few weeks, he said.

Passengers are still encouraged to arrive 1 hour and 45 minutes before their flights are scheduled to leave. Because the airport gets extremely busy this time of year, there often are long waits to get through security, and arriving 30 minutes before a flight is not sufficient, he said

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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