Airport paranoia … THE destroyer

Cranky Man likes to keep an eye on the maneuvering surrounding the City of Philadelphia’s efforts to expand the Philadelphia International Airport.  Why?  Because I’m a suspicious, semi-paranoid type who’s convinced a nefarious plot will surface to bring back the issue of an airport at the recently abandoned Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove. 

The Kinks would claim “Paranoia, the Destroyer”.  But it does keep you on your toes!

And so it was with my Paranoia Radar in full operational mode that I read not one … but two articles in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer on UPS, U.S. Airways and the Philadelphia International Airport expansion kerfuffle.

The first article was found in The Inqy’s Business Section, and was quite informative on the size, complexity, depth and breadth of the UPS operation at PHL.  UPS employs 3100 people at PHL, housed on 212 acres and in a 681,000 square-foot processing center.  The center also includes a 50-acre airplane ramp. 

The hub processes approximately 70,000 parcels a day, which can rise to 95,000 per day during the Christmas season.  Eighty to 100 tractor trailers a day move parcels to ground hubs within a 150-mile radius, including its ground delivery hub on Blair Mill Road in Horsham.  There were no specific figures provided for flights-per-day; but in 2007 available information showed 20 flights every 24 hours.  I would expect more flights now 4-5 years later than that 2007 data.  Due to airway congestion and the UPS sorting process schedule, these flights arrive primarily at night.

UPS recently bought Dutch package and freight service TNT Express for $6.7 billion!     

The second article described the confab held Monday, March 26 between the City of Philadelphia in the person of Mayor Michael Nutter and U.S. Airways in the person of Chief Executive Doug Barker over the future of the airlines operations at PHL and the planned expansion of the airport.  The expansion calls for the construction of a new runway that – among other things – would REQUIRE that UPS accept a move from their current location to a less desirable site – according to UPS – in Tinicum.

The cost of this project is a big concern to both the City and to U.S. Airways.  The City estimates the project’s cost to be $6.4 BILLION over a 13-year period!  But members of airlines industry suggest the costs will run closer to $10.5 BILLION!  That’s a pretty big gap.

The City, prior to yesterday’s meeting with U.S. Air, planned to pay for the project in part by charging the airlines fees based on activity.  Needless to say the airlines aren’t particularly thrilled with the prospect, especially when they insist a new runway will not solve the problem it’s intended to address … more timely flights and lessened airspace congestion.  The airlines insist that overcrowding and more efficient airport operations would be resolved by working to re-route or re-organize the airspace between Boston and Washington D.C.

Why is this important to watch?  Paranoia runs deep!

U.S. Airways has suggested that it might shift air operations away from PHL if it could not agree to a new 15-year lease with The City and those prohibitive charges for the new runway.  If a “use fee” is charged by The City to pay for the runway, U.S. Air can avoid those charges by simply reducing the number of flights out of Philadelphia or – in a more drastic scenario – move its Philadelphia hub operations somewhere else.

This is the same approach UPS may take when it comes to moving its facility from the east side of the airport to the west side, bordering on Tinicum.  UPS does not like the proposed Tinicum site since it affords no buffer area from surrounding homes; the plan to appropriate 72 homes via forced sales under provisions of eminent domain puts UPS in the position of being “the bad neighbor”; and the fact that the proposed site provides no additional space for expansion of the PHL UPS hub if necessary. 

UPS has said if forced to move from its current site, it will entertain “all other options”, including the potential of moving its Philadelphia hub out of The City.

And there sits that 8000-foot runway … with 890 acres of land … 1/2 mile from my front door …

And now the Horsham Land Reuse Authority plan will soon be in Washington … in the hands of the Navy … with all those politicians standing around … looking for their next Sugar Daddy donation …

We all knew it would take YEARS for this redevelopment effort to bear fruit.  But it only takes a few days for fruit to turn into garbage. 

Paranoia?!?  BIG destroyer …

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