This was a post I made on A.net in a topic about people whining how Philly is always delayed. And then not knowing what they are talking about and blaming it on factors that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.
One of the largest reasons for the departure delays is simply the bottleneck at 27L. With taxiways Mike, Lima, November, Sierra Alpha and the east/west sides of Sierra meeting at the same point at 27L doesn't help at all. Not only do you get all those aircraft meeting up at once and need to be sequenced by local control west rather than ground like other airports, which is a very time consuming job for someone working a busy local. Another thing that is not great is the lack of space for blocks. They all taxi out at once, then everybody has different P-times (Proposed Departure times/ Wheels up times) and then no space for someone early to pull off for a little. A major problem is how ZNY and ZDC meet up right at PHL, it's not that they can't coordinate together. It's the fact that two completely separate facilities must run what is called a 'Super Center' and there is only one of those. They must flow departures and arrivals evenly. Now with the implementation of TMA (Traffic Management Advisor) the arrivals get to the metering fixes on time. In this case BUNTS, TERRI, VCN, and SPUDS.
Let me mention another thing, is that the Tracon's airspace is very constricted, I have not really been able to pin point it. Yet, 90% of the US airports run a flow called the 'cornerpost'. Where the arrivals end in the corners. NE, NW, SE, SW. That's an extremely efficient way in bringing in traffic because everything is properly spaced, the blending of two arrivals to create a final is not that difficult. Now in Phillys case, the north fixes are very close and are just in very odd places, the same goes for the south fixes. Now if McGuire was not where it is or if PHL would provide Approach services to WRI, and the Tracon was able to regain some of the SE airspace and a arrival could be placed there. It would cut down on I would say 60% of the arrival delays due to the vectoring done by South Arrival, and what some pilots refer to as the 'Philly Factor'.
If they were able to get that airspace and have an arrival in place to take that traffic and bring them onto a direct base for a the final, then you would not have the delays that happen down in South Arrivals airspace. Now someone said how the runways are just not spaced enough, that's true. Yet, we were the second facility with PRM (Precision Runway Monitor) technology behind MSP. Although it has been OTS for quite some time due to conflicting software issues. Gee, I wonder if it runs off Windows! Although we have that technology, it simply is not used enough due to the facilites low staffing numbers.
So around April, Michael Wagner, the PHL Tower Manager, ex EWR Tower Manager put an operation into place called the SAPR2 (Simultaneous Approaches to Parallel Runways '2') and this did the exact thing PRM did. Landing 27L, 26 and Departing 27R and 35 at intersection Kilo as usual. It was used quite a bit through April and May, I even remember one week it was used everyday, all day. Soon after it sort of died out. It was found that when your departing 27R, it's very hard to switch operations back to departures on 27L and arrivals 27R. Now on to something that was used about 2 years ago, which was dubbed the (SAPR) well now (SAPR1) and that was arrivals for 26, 27R and 27L. It was very safe and operationally efficient, that was used ALOT and also died out eventually. It was used during extremely heavy arrival pushes. It died out mainly because the facility does not really like to pull a FLL, where you land and depart on a single runway at the same time. In this case being 27L.
Let me also add about the 35 go arounds that would happen, ehh every once in a while last summer between 27R and 35 arrivals. There was a little application that was put into place called CRDA (Converging Runway Display Aid). What it basically does is let's say you have a SWA 737 on a 4 mile final for 27R. It will then take that aircrafts speed and display a 'ghost' aircraft on the 35 final. So lets say there is a USA A320 on a 8 mile final for 27R, 4 in trail of the SWA 73. So once again a 'ghost' blip will be generated and shown as if it were on Approach to 35. So what you do is shoot an aircraft between that gap of 'ghost' aircraft for 27R and assign a speed to 3-5 miles and your set. With that tool in place it really has killed the amount of go-arounds between 27R and 35. There is a final controller for 35 (Final Vectors 2) and one for 27's/26, the main one known at (Final Vectors One), that has also helped with the amount of arrivals.
A great thing that was worked out and is in play every day and the practice Reduced Longitudinal Separation. They run the finals for both the East Flow and West Flow with only 2.5nm staggered separation or even intrail separation. If you ever get in late or fall behind schedule in the air, don't blame Philly because the main reason would be the low altitude center sector running the arrival or even stuff that happens enroute in the high altitude sectors. As for departures you can't do a damn thing, until the final decision on the 2020 Master Plan is released.
The Jet Airways are very cramped in the Northeast now a days. Generally many of the ground stops that you hear about at Philly during the afternoons is because all of a sudden good ol' ZNY feels like shutting down J75 (goes to Atlanta), J6, and J60 for no reason other than 'volume' then soon after ZDC shuts down J79 and J193. Leaving Philly in the middle of the mess leaving no room for departures in any direction and pax bitching about delays that Philly has no control over or any airport for that matter. Many people blame an airport for delays simply because they don't think about what a big role a center plays, let alone two centers overlying an airport, and the fact that they have to control hundreds of the thousands of miles of airspace laterally.
If the center pulls the plug, then terminal area has no say no matter how much traffic is on the ground waiting, granted not much fuel is wasted, they know they will be waiting a while at Philly and shut the engines down right away. I know not many people will read this, or know a damn thing about what I was talking about. So let me save this post just for another 10 times this topic comes up.