Strike-hit airport: a scaled-down version of itself

The first tipoff that Logan International Airport in Boston was functioning smoothly was the cheerful manner of a shuttle bus driver who ferries passengers between terminals, the Hilton Hotel, and the rapid transit station. Despite scorching heat and humidity, he patiently fielded questions from anxious riders and poked fun at a commercial playing over the public address system.

Indeed, airport activity on Day 2 of the air traffic controllers' strike resembled nothing so much as a scaled-down version of itself.

With 10 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supervisors and two union controllers on duty for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, the nation's 10th-busiest airport was operating at 65 percent of normal activity -- about 11 percent higher than on the first day of the strike, according to a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), which operates it. Between 7 and 9 a.m., said the spokesman, an averv age of 50 flights an hour were landing or taking off, as opposed to the normal 70.

Cargo flights, which operate at night, were essentially unaffected.

Nonetheless, a Massachusetts State Police desk sergeant in the main terminal said four to five extra officer per shift had been assigned to keep closer than usual surveillance on backed up cargo.

The 8 a.m. Eastern Airlines shuttle to New york left on schedule, but with 88 passengers aboard instead of the usual 177.

Elsewhere, the airport was a scene of outward calm due to the strike and the intense heat. Many of the airport concessions, especially snack bars, were closed. Flight-insurance and car-rental counter personnel had little to do. The control tower observation deck and several ticket counters and departure gates were deserted. Parking lots were at best one-quarter full. Shuttle bus trips were cut by half from the first day of the strike, but most were lightly used anyway.

The Massport spokesman estimated it would take at least two weeks to assess the loss in revenue due to the reduced traffic.

Pickets from Local 215 of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (Patco) reportedly left the entrance to the airport around 1 p.m. Aug. 3 -- about the time President Reagan issued his ultimatum to the union to return to work in 48 hours or be fired. They have not returned.

"Just my opinion," said an airport official, "but I think Reagan scared'em off. I think Patco will be back [at work] tomorrow morning."

The main concession to the reduced work force in the Logan control tower was an FAA directive that flights not use an over-the-water takeoff route that spares Boston's southern sections and suburbs most of the noise from low-flying jets. Technically, that order remained in effect Aug. 4, but a noise-abatement office spokeswoman said all departing flights were usin g the over-the-water route again.

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