The airspace in and around the New York City metro area is the most congested and complex airspace in the National Airspace System (NAS). There are multiple airports within, and adjacent to, the metro area and many of these airports are extremely close to each other. Because of this close proximity, there are numerous conflicts between approaches, departures and enroute traffic. This complexity makes the New York metro area particularly susceptible to constraints and delays.

This resource was designed to provide overview information regarding the airports listed below, the common departure and arrival issues, and the route issues encountered in the New York metro airspace.

What are the New York Metro Airports?

The three major airports with significant commercial traffic are:

  1. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  2. New York La Guardia Airport (LGA)
  3. New York John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

The satellite airports (commonly used by business and general aviation aircraft) are:

  • Teterboro Airport (TEB) – considered a Newark satellite
  • Morristown Municipal Airport (MMU) – considered a Newark satellite
  • Essex County Airport/Caldwell Airport (CDW) – considered a Newark satellite
  • Westchester County Airport/White Plains Airport (HPN) – considered a La Guardia satellite
  • Republic Airport/Farmingdale Airport (FRG) – considered a Kennedy satellite

Get more information on NYC metro airports.

What Causes the Delays?

Conflicts in runway configuration, leading to reduced arrival or departure rates

Each airport has optimum arrival and departure rates, which are the number of arrivals or departures that the airport can accommodate during a given hour. This rate is determined by the airport runway configuration, which is typically determined by wind and weather conditions.Depending on which runway configuration is in use, there can be significant conflicts between traffic flows from different airports. For this reason, the runway configurations at the major airports usually dictate the runway configurations at the satellite airports.

Arrival and departure gate congestion

All of the airports in the New York metro area share multiple arrival and departure fixes (commonly referred to as the arrival gates and departure gates). Every flight will have to use a specific arrival and/or departure fix when arriving or departing the area. Due to the limited amount of airspace in the region, these arrival and departure fixes are very close to one another, leaving little or no room for deviations in or out of the area without the deviation affecting an adjacent fix.

A more detailed look at the New York departure and arrival gates is available at New York Departure & Arrival Gates.

Enroute constraints

Additional issues associated with the New York metro area are the enroute constraints. The majority of arriving and departing New York traffic will transit through the three adjacent centers – from New York Center (ZNY) through Boston Center (ZBW), Cleveland Center (ZOB) or Washington Center (ZDC). These centers handle the “flows” to and from the New York airports in addition to their own arriving and departing traffic.

Quite often, the heavy volume associated with the New York flows will result in delays for traffic trying to depart the adjacent major cities (i.e. Boston or Washington DC). The arrival flows into New York through the adjacent centers are so heavy at times, that they don’t have room to fit these flights into the enroute (or overhead) stream. The adjacent centers will then have to hold the aircraft on the ground until a space becomes available in the overhead stream.

This is an issue that many NBAA Members are familiar with, especially those who frequently operate between Washington DC and New York or between Boston and New York. It is also common to see miles-in-trail (MIT) restrictions for flights operating through the adjacent centers, since this is one popular method for metering the flows in and out of New York.

Weather impacts

In addition to delays caused by the volume of traffic in the area, weather can be a real problem in the New York metros – particularly severe or convective weather. Because there is so much traffic and so many airports compacted into a small space, weather moving through the area can create major problems to the New York operation. As a result, there are a number of special routes and procedures, known as the New York Severe Weather Avoidance Plan (SWAP) that have been developed to try to mitigate the impact of these weather events.

For mmore information about the routes used in the New York metro area, visit New York Metro Enroute Overview.

Finally, as part of the effort to create more efficiency for operators trying to depart the New York metro airports, particularly during peak volume or during severe weather events, a new position was created at New York TRACON to provide assistance. This position is called the Tactical Route Coordinator. For more information on this new resource, visit Tactical Route Coordinator (TRC).