What causes the near constant delays in air traffic?  An answer was given in this month’s issue of Wired, in a long article showing how the FAA plans to add traffic lanes coming out of JFK airport from one lane into a series of lanes, called NextGen, in a wider path.  The article shows in a diagram how flights leaving JFK heading west have to stay on a path over central New Jersey, and how a proposed new series of flight paths will take jets further north but spread them out in to six different lanes.

The current system “is a nightmare for NY travelers; delays affect about a third of the area’s flights. Three quarters of all holdups nationwide can be traced back to that tangled swath of East Coast sky.”

It all sounds simple…but of course there is a huge pricetag to anything that’s much better. Each plane would need $300,000 worth of new avionics. 800 new federally-funded ground stations to relay each plane’s location and trajectory to every other plane in the sky would push the project to a $42 billion cost.

That’s what it costs to avoid the predicable delays we all hate. The project should launch around 2025, says the FAA. In the meantime, the agency began the new takeoff headings in 2007, shooting flight plans out in a more expanded radius.