Air Traffic Control Newsletter #117

Air Traffic Control Reform Newsletter

Air Traffic Control Newsletter #117

Major issues for upcoming ADS-B summit, Lessons from the Chicago center outage

In this issue:

Major Issues to Be Thrashed Out at ADS-B Summit

In issuing his invitation for the October 28th “Call to Action” ADS-B summit, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has opened the door for considerable feedback from the invited aviation stakeholders. Changing the basis of ATC surveillance from radar to GPS-based position updates was always going to be a big challenge, given the chicken-and-egg nature of the problem: if airspace users equip too soon, they will have wasted the money until the agency actually provides the new services and procedures that generate benefits. But due to well-justified skepticism of the FAA’s ability to deliver what it promises on schedule, users have held back and some may not be able to equip by the January 1, 2020 deadline to have ADS-B/Out equipment installed and operational.

How that chicken-and-egg problem is playing out is illustrated in a highly critical report by the DOT Office of the Inspector General, issued Sept. 11, 2014 (AV-2014-105). And even that fairly comprehensive report omits a major problem facing airlines’ equipage, which will surely be a topic at next week’s summit. Before getting into that, here is a brief summary of the OIG’s findings.

First, although contractor Exelis has completed implementing the 634 ADS-B ground stations it was contracted to deliver, FAA has been unable to complete end-to-end testing of the system. One reason is that so few users are equipped (only 3% of airline aircraft and 10% of general aviation aircraft) and the software to make use of the ADS-B updates at 230 towers, centers and TRACONs is mostly not in place, and is not expected to be until 2019 (if further budget problems don’t lead to additional delays). Second, FAA has not finished developing its system to monitor the performance of the ADS-B network to be sure it is working properly when pilots and controllers are depending on it. This Surveillance Broadcast Services Monitor still has a lot of development work ahead of it, according to the OIG report.

Needless to say, the far-from-finished nature of the FAA’s ADS-B system has discouraged users from making early equipage investment decisions. And while it is widely understood that the full benefits from ADS-B for aircraft operators will only be achieved once planes are subsequently equipped with ADS-B/In equipment in their cockpits, FAA has not provided credible benefit/cost analysis for ADS-B/In, for which no firm specifications or equipage deadlines exist. As the OIG report dryly puts it “requirements for ADS-B/In’s advanced capabilities continue to evolve.” And it also points out that as of now, FAA’s latest benefit/cost analysis shows that costs for the ADS-B/Out program will exceed benefits by as much as $588 million.

If that were not enough, I’ve recently learned that U.S. airlines are furious over a recent (and little-noticed) regulatory change that will significantly increase the cost of equipping airliners and business jets for ADS-B/Out. The change (in 14 CFR, Part 91, 91.227) will require significantly greater precision than FAA’s previous ADS-B requirements. Meeting these new accuracy and integrity requirements appears to require installing costly new receivers of the kind used for WAAS, rather than the GPS receivers already installed on 80% of the fleet. Airlines are pointing out that these extreme requirements might be appropriate if ADS-B were to be the sole means of ATC surveillance. But both primary radar and a large fraction of secondary surveillance radars will remain in service indefinitely under current plans, so the higher precision is unnecessary. Second, these requirements are far more stringent than those adopted by the European Commission for ADS-B in Europe-anywhere from three times to 100 times more stringent. It is not only U.S. airlines that are concerned over this; so is IATA, representing airlines worldwide, since any non-US airliner flying in U.S. airspace would also have to meet these costly new requirements.

I wish I didn’t have to sound like a broken record, but the ADS-B fiasco illustrates yet again the serious disconnect between the Air Traffic Organization and its aviation customers. The NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) of RTCA has shown how aviation customers and other stakeholders can work together to set priorities and recommend near-term changes with better ratios of benefits to costs. Think how much better things would run if the stakeholders could actually make the policy decisions about which major capabilities are worth paying for and which ones are not.

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Lessons from the Chicago Center Outage

Let me begin by praising the heroic efforts of the controllers and technicians who mobilized to restore air traffic control services in the airspace controlled by Chicago Center (ZAU) following the Sept. 26th sabotage that took ZAU off-line for 17 days. While PASS technicians worked practically around the clock to replace and repair damaged communications equipment, NATCA controllers from ZAU fanned out to four adjacent centers: Cleveland (ZOB), Indianapolis (ZID), Kansas City (ZKC), and Minneapolis (ZMP) and to about 20 TRACONs in the Midwest. These ZAU controllers assisted the controllers in the other centers and TRACONs with their local knowledge of procedures for getting planes into and out of Chicago airspace.

But this unprecedented incident illustrates that the U.S. ATC system does not have robust contingency plans to cope with a large-scale outage of this kind. One of the first things I learned as a young aerospace systems engineer, fresh out of college, was that important systems need to be designed to cope with failures in a way that enables operations to continue-terms such as “fail-soft” and “graceful degradation” were common currency. FAA, though, has never planned for what to do if an entire center goes off-line.

But the ad-hoc contingency plan developed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 26th event does illustrate some of the benefits of the NextGen system architecture. Despite ERAM’s over-done customization at each center to conform to historical patches in the predecessor HOST system, ERAM as installed in the five Midwest centers did permit ZAU airspace to be displayed at the other four centers, though to control that traffic safely required the on-site presence of ZAU controllers. That kind of redundancy does not exist for voice communications capability, however. The legacy Voice Switching Control System (VSCS) is hard-wired to serve only the specific facility it serves. That meant FAA had to quickly obtain leased lines to link the various TRACONs and centers together to enable them to take over ZAU’s communications functions. Still to come is a NextGen replacement for VSCS called the National Airspace Voice System. This network-enabled system will allow the transfer of communications functions among facilities-but deployment will not begin until 2019 (budgets permitting, of course).

This is another example illustrating that the widely asserted belief that the U.S. ATC system is the best in the world is no longer true in all respects. Eurocontrol has two centers, each of which has a backup facility. The Brussels center’s backup is in Paris, and the upper-area control center in Maastricht has a “mirror” operation in the same compound that can take over in the event of an outage. When NATS consolidated its U.K. centers into two all-new ones at Prestwick and Swanwick, it also developed an independent “contingency site” that can be configured to take over 85% of the functions of either of them within 48 hours; during that transition period, the operational center can provide partial backup. And when Airservices Australia consolidated its centers into two identical ones, it designed them such that either one can take over for the other, managing all of Australia’s airspace (including oceanic). If one went down, training consoles in the other would be reconfigured to cover the airspace of the other center, and all communications links would be switched over. Controllers from the inoperative center would fly (two hours) to the active center to supplement the workforce at the latter.

In addition to Administrator Huerta’s 30-day review of facility contingency plans (and security), the DOT Office of Inspector General last week announced that it has begun an audit of FAA contingency plans and security protocols-but only at the Chicago facilities. I hope they will draw on overseas best-practices in making their recommendations.

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Stakeholders Want Fundamental ATC Reform, GAO Finds

In a 10-month study of aviation stakeholder concerns, requested by Reps. Bill Shuster (R, PA) and Frank LoBiondo (R, NJ), the Government Accountability Office found considerable concern about the ability of the FAA and its Air Traffic Organization to implement the NextGen modernization program, and strong support for organizational and funding changes (GAO-14-770, September 2014).

Industry stakeholders–including representatives of airlines, airports, general aviation, former FAA officials, manufacturers, and aviation consultants and outside experts-expressed six primary concerns about the FAA/ATO status quo:

  1. Ensuring that aircraft are equipped to take advantage of NextGen;
  2. Dealing with an uncertain fiscal and budgetary environment;
  3. Improving FAA/ATO human capital to meet future needs of a transformed system;
  4. Actually implementing new procedures, such as performance-based navigation;
  5. Demonstrating real benefits and delivering them in the near term; and,
  6. Maintaining existing infrastructure during the transition to NextGen, while consolidating or closing aging facilities.

When asked about specific changes that could help address the above problems, 64 of the 76 stakeholders suggested change, with the most-often suggested ones as follows:

  • Change how the system is funded, to make funding stable and predictable;
  • Improve the selection and training of controllers, update the controllers’ handbook in a timely manner, and train technicians to deal with NextGen technologies;
  • Streamline the development and implementation of new navigation procedures and the certification of new technology;
  • Improve coordination with industry stakeholders, beyond the good work already being accomplished via the NextGen Advisory Committee; and,
  • Hold managers and employees accountable for results.

While those may sound like motherhood and apple pie, GAO also asked about the kind of organization transformation that has occurred in most other developed countries in recent decades: separation of the ATC function from the government’s transport agency and reorganizing it as a corporate entity funded by its customers. Seventy percent (53 out of 76) of the stakeholders agreed that this is an option, though 26 of them either expressed reservations or thought it was politically unlikely. Only 12 thought that separating the ATO from FAA was not a good idea. If a change of this kind is to be made, 65 of the stakeholders suggested issues that should be considered. These include:

  • Funding-a sustainable revenue stream, available to support revenue bonding in addition to paying for ongoing operations.
  • Lessons Learned-drawing on the overseas experience to learn what worked well and what didn’t.
  • Congressional Involvement-what role, if any, should Congress have in overseeing the new system?
  • Regulatory Coordination-defining the interface between the FAA as safety regulator and the independent ATC provider.
  • Governance-include system users and other stakeholders on the governing body.
  • Safety-some expressed concern about a potential conflict between profit and safety (which would only apply if the revamped ATO were operated on a for-profit basis).
  • Transition Management-some expressed concern about a lengthy and difficult transition period [see next article for a discussion of this issue].
  • Access-Would small communities and general aviation enjoy the same access to the National Airspace System as they have today?

These are exactly the kinds of questions we should all be discussing as we approach the 2015 FAA reauthorization process.

The stakeholders are speaking out-and Congress is listening. Chairman Shuster told a Sept. 16th forum organized by The Hill and Airlines for America that he wants the reauthorization bill to be “transformational.” Lawmakers “have to think big and bolder,” he said. “If we don’t do that, I believe we’re going to be in trouble.” At the same event, Rep. Sam Graves (R, MO), co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus, recounted his recent visit to Nav Canada and seemed to be impressed, though he noted that any U.S. version would have to be adapted to our larger and more complex airspace.

One indication of the magnitude of the problem came a few weeks later, when FAA’s Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs, and Environment addressed the NexGen Advisory Committee. Rich Swayze, a former senior aviation staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee, summarized recent budget planning documents that shows FAA amassing a $5 billion deficit by FY 2022, under status-quo conditions. That projection does not factor in the remaining eight years of sequestration. He added that “It’s impossible to long-term plan if your budget is bouncing around,” concluding that “We have a big problem here.”

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A Long, Disruptive Transition Period?

A new argument against corporatizing the Air Traffic Organization has been making the rounds recently. In essence, it posits that changing the ATO into a self-funded, stakeholder-governed corporation would disrupt existing and planned NextGen procurements while creating years of turmoil as long-time employees either leave or are terminated, and a new system of rates and charges is phased in to replace current aviation excise taxes. In effect, proponents of this view admit that FAA funding is shaky, NextGen is over-budget and behind schedule, and aviation customers are unhappy-but things would somehow be much worse if the ATO were given a different source of funding and method of governance.

Let’s try to think through whether there is anything to this line of thought. First of all, I don’t see any threat to existing NextGen contracts. The enabling legislation, while giving the reformed ATO the ability to make its own future business decisions, would not abrogate existing contracts entered into in good faith by both parties. Regarding future elements of NextGen, it would be highly appropriate for a new board of aviation stakeholders to take a fresh look at whether all the elements currently included in NextGen actually have a sound business case. The NextGen Advisory Committee has been engaged in this kind of assessment of near-term projects, but the super-NAC that a stakeholder board would amount to would be obligated to take a longer-term view and set priorities accordingly. That’s one of the benefits of making this transition.

Secondly, we don’t have to speculate about what such transitions look like. Over 50 of today’s ANSPs, in countries large and small, have made the change from being part of a tax-funded government agency to it becoming a self-supporting corporate entity over the past 20 years or so. In Canada, the official transition period was two years, with the new ATC rates and charges not going into effect until the end of that period, after they were approved by the new stakeholder board. Employees went home one day as Transport Canada civil servants and came to work the next day as employees of Nav Canada-in the same offices and facilities as they had occupied the day before. The same thing happened at Airservices Australia, Airways New Zealand, DFS in Germany, NATS in the U.K., and all the others.

Some of the confusion over this issue may stem from the tendency to call the transition “privatization.” In common parlance, the P-word generally has one of two meanings. In the case of state-owned businesses, like the former British Airways, privatization means the sale of the entity to shareholders, often via an initial public offering (IPO); those shareholders then elect a board of directors that seeks to make the enterprise profitable. The other typical meaning is outsourcing, in which the government holds a competition to select a private-sector company to operate a former government service-as when FAA outsourced Flight Service Stations to Lockheed Martin.

But neither of those meanings applies to what people are contemplating for the Air Traffic Organization. It will not be sold to investors, nor will it be outsourced to an aerospace company. Instead, it will be reorganized in place, with mostly the same workforce and facilities as it has today, but separated from the government and its budget system. It will set its own budget, based on what its stakeholders agree makes sense and are willing to pay for. With its own, dedicated funding sources, it will be able to issue long-term revenue bonds, as airports do, for major capital modernization programs. It will be accountable not to 535 members of Congress, the Secretary of Transportation, OMB, GAO, and the DOT Inspector General, because they will no longer have to safeguard “taxpayers’ money”–because the corporation will not be taxpayer-funded. Instead, it will be accountable to its governing board, representing all key aviation stakeholders, including the customers who provide its revenue. This is not “privatization” in either of the two ordinary meanings of the term.

As FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has recently said publicly, the status quo is not tenable-and must not continue (see Quotable Quotes). Scores of other countries have transformed their ATC providers into self-funded, self-governed corporations, without creating chaos. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same.

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Remote Tower Progress Now Includes the USA

I’m pleased to report that a pilot project to test and evaluate remote tower technology has been approved to take place at Leesburg Executive Airport in Virginia next year. The airport currently has no tower, despite being located just five nm from Washington Dulles International Airport. Leesburg is one of the three largest general aviation airports in Virginia, by number of operations (over 100,000 per year) and by the number of aircraft based there.

The project is a joint effort of remote tower pioneer Saab Sensis and Virginia SATSLab, partnering with the Leesburg airport. During the three-month test, the airport will function as a non-radar-tower-controlled airport in Class D airspace. The airport will hire FAA-certified controllers to operate at a Remote Tower Center. During the trial the RTC will be located at the airport, but it will function just as if it were located remotely. Equipment to be installed at the airport will include high-definition video cameras, a pan-tilt-zoom camera, weather sensors, a signal light gun, and microphones. The RTC will have multiple high-definition video displays and two controller work stations able to control the cameras and voice communications. For comparison purposes, a portable air traffic control tower will also be in place at the airport during the trial. The goal is to present FAA with a safety case, aiming for approval to use the technology at non-federal visual flight rules (VFR) towers.

The latest quarterly issue of Air Traffic Management (Issue 3, 2014) includes a 13-page set of articles on the global spread of remote towers. It reports that a recent remote tower conference in Dublin, sponsored by SESAR, attracted about 150 people from numerous countries. Two remote tower facilities are already in operation, one in Sweden (LFV’s Sundsvall Remote Tower Center) and the NATS Virtual Contingency Facility that has been available as a backup site since 2009. Avinor is developing a remote tower facility for northern Norway, and Airservices Australia continues to develop its pilot project remote tower facility to serve Alice Springs. A SESAR research and development effort involves Germany’s DFS with Frequentis and Spain’s AENA with Indra. Others attending the Dublin conference with research and/or plans for remote towers include the ANSPs of the Bahamas, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, and Romania.

Potential U.S. applications for remote towers are several. As illustrated by Leesburg, there are many busy GA airports that do not currently have a VFR tower, and the prospects for FAA’s budget adding towers at such airports-even as contract towers-are not good. Another possible application is as a replacement for existing physical towers at lower-activity GA airports. Providing tower services to a number of such airports from a single remote tower center would lower the capital and operating costs per airport, and would also make it feasible to provide night-shift operations at airports that don’t have enough overnight traffic individually to justify a midnight shift. Indeed, remote towers ought to be a poster child for the transformation offered by NextGen, under which system wide information management makes it possible to manage air traffic anywhere from anywhere.

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Some Progress on Global Aircraft Tracking

Several companies have recently announced new options for real-time tracking of aircraft in flight, especially in non-radar airspace (oceanic and polar). Airbus and Boeing are offering tracking features on their newest airliners, as John Croft reported in Aviation Week October 13th. Boeing’s approach will automatically increase the frequency of aircraft position reports sent via ACARS to once every 10 or every 20 seconds if any of a dozen or so parameter values exceeds pre-set limits. It is available on new 787s, but it is not clear how easily it can be retrofitted onto existing in-service planes. Airbus says its tracking software package is “ready now”-for both new aircraft and retrofits.

Aireon announced last month that it will offer free emergency tracking service to all ANSPs whether or not they are subscribers to the company’s space-based ADS-B service. Called Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking (ALERT), the system will rely on mandated ADS-B equipment on commercial planes from Airbus and Boeing. Accordingly, it will not require any investment by either the airlines or the ANSPs. Inmarsat recently said it will offer a similar service to all parts of the earth except polar regions. And Globalstar is working with Alaska-based ADS-B Technologies to offer a similar (non-polar, non-oceanic) capability.

In addition, privately held ATH Group notes that its Attila Tracking Engine, to which airlines can subscribe, provides not only real-time tracking but also provides a 4D trajectory of where the aircraft has been and a forecast of where it is going and when it will arrive.

None of these approaches currently deals with the ability of a pilot to disconnect any or all of the communications channels on board the aircraft to avoid being tracked. The only system I’ve discovered that currently offers that capability is Canada-based Flyht Aerospace. Its Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS), operational with 30 customers on 350 aircraft, uses the Iridium constellation to send both routine in-flight performance data and burst-mode streaming data to airline operations centers. Its alert mode is triggered automatically by any of a number of pre-set conditions. Flyht offers a tamper-proof option-an alternative power source that would take over if the circuit breaker for the system is pulled-but thus far no customers have opted for it. ADS-B Technologies is working on a tamper-proof version of its satellite ADS-B system that will use a fuseable link and a 10-hour backup battery. In the event of an interruption in the signal, the transmitter would switch to the battery and continue communicating.

It’s good to see that at least two companies are willing to tackle this problem.

Upcoming Event

NATA Aviation Business Roundtable, Nov. 5-6, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, DC (Robert Poole speaking). Details from rmullholland@nata.aero.

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News Notes

Bipartisan Amendment on Controller Hiring. Reps. Dan Lipinski (D, IL) and Randy Hultgren (R, IL) have introduced the Safe Towers Act, which would overturn FAA’s new “off-the-street” hiring process and return to the former policy of giving preference to military veterans with ATC experience and graduates of ATC degree programs at Collegiate Training Initiative colleges and universities. Chicago Tribune transportation reporter John Hilkevitch, in reporting the news, also reviewed FAA’s new 62-question “biographical questionnaire” which all applicants must “pass” before being considered for controller training. (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 22, 2014)

Airservices Australia Modernizing More Towers. After its successful implementation of Nav Canada’s digital Integrated Tower Automation Suite in four of its control towers, Airservices Australia has signed on to install the system in four more towers: Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast, and Perth. INTAS is already operational in the towers at Adelaide, Broome, Melbourne, and Rockhampton.

Aireon Hires a Top FAA Engineer. Space-based global ADS-B provider Aireon has hired FAA’s former Director of the Program Management Office for Air Traffic Systems, Vincent Capezzuto. The 18-year FAA veteran is widely known as one of the agency’s best technology managers. At Aireon, he is now Chief Technology Officer and Vice President, Engineering. Aireon is a joint venture of Iridium Communications and a number of leading ANSPs from Canada and Europe. Its global ADS-B coverage will be based on the new Iridium-Next constellation of communications satellites, with service beginning in 2017.

FAA Takes Steps on Controller Fatigue. Teri Bristol, Chief Operating Officer of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, has announced several changes aimed at reducing the hazards of controller fatigue, especially on midnight shifts. There are new limits on the number of consecutive midnight shifts per week and the number of hours on midnight shifts. In addition, new rules for handoffs between facilities during midnight shifts are being implemented.

NATS and U.K. Military Working Together. Corporatized U.K. air navigation service provider NATS early this month announced two new agreements with the country’s military. First, it has signed a two-year contract to provide air traffic and engineering services for the Ministry of Defense’s Wattisham airfield in Suffolk. Second, NATS has agreed to provide MOD with its suite of automation tools called iFACTS over a five-year period. That is part of a revised Military Area Radar Service contract between NATS and the MOD.

ADS-B Tehnologies Runs Test of Its Space-Based System. Aviation Daily (Sept. 22, 2014) reported on a round-trip test flight between Anchorage, AK and Fort Myers, FL to test communications between onboard ADS-B/Out systems and the Globalstar satellite constellation. The Piper Navajo carried both a UAT system (for general aviation aircraft) and a 1090ES system (for high-altitude aircraft), and used both a bottom-mounted ADS-B/Out unit and a top-mounted antenna to communicate with the satellites. The flight was part of an ongoing effort to gain FAA certification for the company’s ADS-B Link Augmentation System (ALAS).

Multilateration for Seoul Airport Passes Factory Acceptance Test. COMSOFT announced early last month that its Multilateration (MLAT) system for the Seoul International Airport in South Korea had passed its factory acceptance test in Germany. The next step will be installation of the system at the airport. Aimed at providing real-time, three-dimensional images of all air traffic at and within 250 nm of the airport, it will also interface with a new ADS-B system to monitor all ground vehicles on the airport.

FABs Sign Cooperation Agreement in Europe. The ANSPs of 11countries on August 29th signed an agreement to cooperate on technologies and procedures aimed at implementing the Single European Sky. The agreement is between two Functional Airspace Blocks: FAB Central Europe (Austria, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia) and Blue Med FAB (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Malta).

Correction re Nav Canada. Alert reader Chris Edwards caught a mistake in the lead story of the previous issue of this newsletter. In describing the organizational form of Nav Canada, I wrote that it is “shareholder-governed,” when in fact it is “stakeholder-governed.” Like a user co-op, it has no shareholders; rather, it is governed by stakeholder members.

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Quotable Quotes

“For over 50 years the FAA has effectively managed air traffic in the world’s busiest, most complex airspace while maintaining the highest levels of safety. However, a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals widespread and growing skepticism among the aviation community about the FAA’s capability to successfully modernize our nation’s airspace-the effort known as NextGen. Now with the DOT Inspector General’s report on the FAA’s inability to effectively deploy a significant component of NextGen nationwide, Congress must thoroughly reexamine whether the FAA organizational structure will allow the agency to successfully execute new technology programs safely and cost-effectively in the decades ahead.” [emphasis in original]
-Rep. Bill Shuster and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, “Shuster and LoBiondo Joint Statement on Inspector General Report on FAA NextGen System,” Sept. 25, 2014

“We are clearly NOT where we need to be. A look at the many DOT Inspector General and GAO reports illustrates that we are woefully behind. The current FAA leadership is working with industry and doing everything it can to move forward quickly. Nonetheless, we have to seriously examine the status quo, and do so with an open mind. We have the best pilots and best air traffic controllers in the world. We need to see if we can give them a better system to operate in. We have to ask ourselves: can we open the door to better, faster innovation and efficiency by making fundamental change? To that end A4A is in the process of:

  • Benchmarking and developing a fact-based assessment of the financial, operational, and governance factors of the U.S. air traffic control system against other models including NavCanada, the UK, and other European models.
  • Evaluating the risks and opportunities for specific elements of reform to the U.S. system, and
  • Developing U.S. ATC options, highlighting economic benefits and implications for NextGen, as well as identifying the governance impact of potential reforms.

We want to develop the facts and let the facts lead to conclusions, not vice versa. We have a great aviation system-the safest in the world. It can be-and needs to be-so much better. We need to work toward that end.”
-Nicholas Calio, President, Airlines for America, luncheon speech at the International Aviation Club, October 9, 2014

“We need to have an honest conversation about the fiscal challenges we face. While you can always debate the exact budgetary needs of an agency, one thing is clear: there is simply no way the FAA can implement NextGen, and recapitalize our aging infrastructure, and continue to provide our current level of services without making some serious tradeoffs. Even with short-term choices, there will be significant impacts to our budget and the services we can provide. We need to have the flexibility to make investment choices that further the health of our airspace system, and not make choices simply because they might be politically popular. A year ago it was [already] clear to me that there was a sense of urgency, and many parts of the industry were willing to entertain some approaches that might have been ruled out previously. The past year has only sharpened my own sense of urgency. However, I fear there is a level of complacency that’s developing that business as usual might work. It won’t. And complacency is a mistake. If we don’t come up with a concrete plan, and if we don’t do it collectively, I’m afraid we’ll be signing up for more instability and uncertainty-which is exactly what we all say we don’t want.”
-FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, “All for One and One for All,” Aero Club of Washington, Oct. 16, 2014

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.