Monday, July 23, 2001 | 11:10 a.m.
McCarran International Airport will get $7 million in federal funds for runway improvements, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said.
The money was appropriated last year and released last week. Berkley is a member of the House Transportation Committee, which helps fund transportation needs.
The on-time performance of flights through Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport improved for the first five months of 2001 over last year, but it's not because of anything local airport officials did.
Just as other airports get most of the blame for delays at McCarran, they get most of the credit when the numbers improve, said Hilarie Grey, a spokeswoman for the airport.
"I wish we could claim all the credit for alleviating delays," Grey said. "But we're actually the beneficiary of a lot of the improvements that have occurred at other airports."
The most recent Transportation Department airport delay statistics list McCarran as the 12th worst of 31 reporting airports with 24.1 percent of its incoming flights arriving more than 15 minutes late. That compares with 28.7 percent of its flights arriving late for the same five-month period in 2000, which ranked McCarran ninth worst during that time frame.
While many of the nation's airports deal with capacity and weather problems, McCarran's four runways are capable of handling the approximately 440 daily flights that make McCarran the seventh busiest airport in the nation.
Most of McCarran's delay problems occur when other airports have their own delays resulting in a ripple effect. McCarran juggles modified arrivals, sometimes resulting in in-flight traffic jams.
One of the factors that drags Las Vegas' numbers down is that a high percentage of flights arrive from airports that rank high in delays.
Las Vegas has about 51 flights a day to and from Los Angeles, the third-worst airport in the nation for delays. Capacity issues plague Los Angeles International Airport and six airlines that supply reports to the Department of Transportation serve Los Angeles with nonstop flights from McCarran.
During the five months between January and May, the average departure delay from Los Angeles was nearly 12 minutes. Southwest Airlines had the worst on-time performance of all Los Angeles-Las Vegas flights, arriving more than 16 minutes late on average. Southwest had more than twice as many flights as any competitor.
There are also 35 flights a day to and from Phoenix, which ranked ninth worst in delays and 19 a day to and from San Francisco, which ranked sixth worst, primarily due to fog and weather-related problems.
Grey said McCarran mitigates some delay problems with its computerized gate management system that gives the airport flexibility in accommodating planes that arrive when they aren't expected. The common use terminal equipment (CUTE) system introduced in 1998 helps minimize delays and is an innovation that is being looked at as a problem solver for other busy airports.