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Goodwill Gesture Fouls Up Airline Traffic

June 8, 1989

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A gesture of good will to high school seniors backfired when Charlotte- Dougla s International Airport officials tried to reroute planes so noise wouldn’t interfere with outdoor graduation ceremonies.

Wednesday’s less than satisfactory results were felt all the way to Atlanta.

″We had absolutely the worst of all possible situations,″ said airport Director Jerry Orr.

″It was a mess,″ said Phil Loftin, Federal Aviation Administration tower chief.

The airport changed its takeoff and landing patterns to reduce noise during 9:30 a.m. commencements at Olympic, West Mecklenburg and Harding high schools, located near the ends of the airport’s three runways.

But flights already delayed by thunderstorms got even later when the Charlotte airport started its rerouting, and delays quickly spread to some connecting airports as planes were late leaving or had to await a chance to land.

″I know some planes sat on the ground in Atlanta for an excessive period,″ Loftin said.

That meant some passengers waiting in Charlotte missed connections.

″We heard a lot of complaints from a lot of people today,″ Orr said.

Even the commencement ceremonies suffered, because the thunderstorms worsened and controllers had to abandon the plan and send planes out as fast as they could.

With thick clouds reflecting the sound, noise from the jets boomed down onto West Mecklenburg High north of the airport and Olympic to the south. Orr said one jet flew directly over Olympic, four over West Mecklenburg.

Not by the count of Kay Boone, a secretary at West Mecklenburg. ″I sat out there and counted 13 planes in 45 minutes,″ she said. ″It was horrible.″

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