Air Traffic Control Newsletter #148

Air Traffic Control Reform Newsletter

Air Traffic Control Newsletter #148

ATC corporatization at major ATC conference

In this issue:

ATC Corporatization at the ATCA Annual

With corporatization of the air traffic control system still being fiercely debated, I wondered how the subject would be dealt with at the Air Traffic Control Association’s big annual conference, which took place last month at its usual venue, the conference center at the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, MD, across the river from DC. The subject came up in four sessions, two general and two breakouts.

The first general session featured an address by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, whose five-year term expires at year-end. He said that the ATC reform conversation is a good thing, and noted that there had been about 40 stop-gap extensions of FAA funding in the past 10 years, “which is not a good way to run any business.” He also noted that fuel taxes are becoming a declining source of revenue over time, affecting all modes of transportation, so we need serious conversations about how to pay for transportation services, including ATC.

The next day’s “fireside chat” by ATCA President Pete Dumont with new Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell was far more explicit. In response to Dumont’s question about the funding challenge for ATC, Elwell cited both the President’s ATC reform principles and the pending House bill as providing the funding solution: the same kind of ICAO-compliant ATC charges used everywhere else in the world. And he explained that a user-based revenue stream would enable the ATC corporation to issue revenue bonds to finance large-scale capital investment in facilities and equipment. Alluding to the stakeholder board, he noted that the corporation would put users in charge of decision-making. In response to an audience question, Elwell said there is no Plan B if corporatization does not pass—the alternative is the status quo. Asked about the length of the transition, he noted the three-year period set forth in the House bill, but also reminded everyone that on Day 1 of the cutover, everyone now working at the Air Traffic Organization would be in place, doing their jobs.

In marked contrast was the first day’s opening panel of aviation stakeholders, innocuously titled “ATC: Be All You Can Be.” With corporatization supporter David Grizzle as moderator, and panelists from stakeholders A4A, AOPA, NBAA, RTCA, and AirMap, I’m sure I was not alone in expecting pro/con ATC corporation fireworks. But the session turned out very bland, with the only substantive discussion of corporatization coming from Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO of Germany’s DFS (corporatized since 1993). I was told by two knowledgeable people why U.S. ATC corporatization was largely absent from this panel: a condition for NBAA to participate was that the panel not be a debate over this subject. The only consolation for audience members expecting this topic to be discussed came from DFS’s Scheurle, who matter-of-factly pointed out that at DFS, all investment decisions are made by them, not by politicians; that they have successful commercial operations in consulting, software, and contract operation of other ANSPs’ control towers; and that their first remote tower project will be under way next year. These points highlighted differences from the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. Scheurle also noted that in the near future, the company will likely charge ATC fees to operators of commercial drones.

The most substantive panel on corporatization at ATCA Annual was a breakout session on transition issues (see story below).

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Would Corporatization Trigger a Budget Sequester?

You’ve got to hand it to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D, OR), Ranking Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, who keeps trying to erect roadblocks to ATC corporatization. First it was that corporatization would be unconstitutional, based on a tortured reading of a Congressional Research Service report he’d requested (and which concluded there is no real problem). Then it was that corporatization would increase the federal budget deficit by some $98 billion over a 10-year period, based on a ridiculous budget “score” by the Congressional Budget Office. His latest claim is that this alleged budget deficit would trigger an automatic budget sequester, based on a carefully hedged memo he requested from CRS.

This latest claim—amplified by DeFazio to say that it would “cause billions of dollars of cuts to Medicare over the next decade”—rests entirely on the previously debunked CBO budget score. If (and only if) that $98.5 billion deficit increase were real, then it’s true that under current PAYGO budget rules, this would trigger offsetting cuts in portions of the federal budget that Congress has not exempted (exemptions include Social Security and Medicaid but not Medicare).

The best assessment of the fallacy in DeFazio’s argument comes from long-time transportation budget expert Jeff Davis, editor of Eno Transportation Weekly, in the October 30th issue. (https://www.enotrans.org/article/house-democrats-claim-sequestration-woes-shuster-faa-bill)

Davis reminds readers that thanks to a 1986 Supreme Court ruling, it is the Office of Management & Budget, not CBO, that has the last word on budget scoring. And OMB has already assessed the AIRR Act’s corporatization provisions and concluded—contrary to CBO—that neither the costs nor the revenues of the ATC corporation should be considered part of the federal budget (as CBO blithely assumed), which undercuts CBO’s overall case.

However, Davis acknowledges that this does not totally solve the problem, due to the inability (within budget scoring rules) of being able to offset changes in discretionary spending against changes in mandatory spending (don’t ask!). But all is not lost. Davis goes on to explain that situations like this come up from time to time in legislation, and what Congress does then is adds to the legislation this simple wording:

“The budgetary effects of this Act shall not be entered on either PAYGO scorecard maintained pursuant to section 4(d) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.”

And to drive home the point, Davis notes that the last time this language was used in a transportation bill was in section 32401 of the FAST Act of 2015, the major bill that reauthorized the Highway Trust Fund and the Federal Highway Administration.

So—once again, no big deal. But I expect opponents of ATC reform will continue making this false assertion that ATC corporatization threatens Medicare, as long as the debate continues. They are that desperate.

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A Serious Look at the ATC Transition Process

The most substantive discussion of ATC corporatization at the ATCA Annual took place at a breakout session titled “How Will We Transition with New Reform?” It was chaired by economist Dorothy Robyn, who worked on ATC reform at the White House National Economic Council during the Clinton Administration’s second term.

Panel member Steve Welman, an economist at MITRE Corporation and co-author of a 2014 MITRE report for FAA on corporatization in six developed countries, was sidelined by a traffic accident and could not appear, so Robyn summarized that important report. Six lessons based on these other countries’ experience in separating their ATC provider from the transport ministry’s safety regulator were as follows:

  1. Allow enough time for the transition, and carefully plan for arm’s-length safety regulation.
  2. Establish reliable funding for the safety regulator (in our case, the remaining FAA); MITRE found that governments in most of the cases studied implemented user-tax funding for the safety regulator, rather than general tax funding.
  3. Focus on streamlining safety regulation.
  4. Address a likely wage gap between civil-service regulators and market-based ATC corporation employees.
  5. Ensure a healthy relationship between the safety regulator and the aviation industry.
  6. Avoid political interference with the regulator.

Panelist Bill Miracky, an economist with Deloitte Consulting, stressed that a spin-off of the ATO from FAA is the type of thing that goes on all the time in the private sector, and many of these transactions are far larger (in dollars and staff) than the FAA/ATO transition. Thus, many lessons can be learned from such transitions. One obvious point is to offer all current FAA employees a position with either the ATC corporation or the remaining FAA. The challenges, he said, were to define the desired future state of both entities and to ensure robust safety regulation and continued progress on Next Gen. His specific recommendations were these:

  1. Define the separation framework, and create a separate office to manage the transition.
  2. Begin the process with the end result clearly in mind.
  3. Develop and manage specific separation plans.
  4. Optimize cost structures of both entities.
  5. Execute all required service agreements.
  6. Execute Day 1 readiness.

His talk, of course, elaborated on these points, but the overall message was that this kind of transition has numerous precedents that can be drawn upon for guidance.

The third presenter has been there and done that: Sid Koslow, recently retired after a long career as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Nav Canada (and before that, a number of years at MITRE, so he knows both FAA and the world’s second-largest ANSP). Koslow stressed the need for a strong team to plan and develop the transition, when a provisional board of directors is in place and numerous details must be thought through and planned for, including which people and assets will transfer from the transportation agency to the corporation, and establishing an initial credit line (prior to the user-fee revenue stream existing). He said the initial Nav Canada team had 45 people, including finance and human resources experts.

Among other points Koslow made, based on Nav Canada’s transition:

  • Make no changes in operations for the first year after cut-over.
  • Locate in a separate facility from the transport agency.
  • For projects that are going well, leave them alone; for projects not going well, change them quickly.
  • Empower the CEO to choose senior management.

He said the most visible change from the status quo ante was that the pace of activity increased, as internal processes changed to be suitable for a business enterprise. A board of directors recruited from the private sector (with fiduciary responsibility to the corporation) helped a lot. And they found that many staff members felt freed by the new environment: “They learned to take ‘Yes’ for an answer.” But some didn’t adapt well, and either retired or found positions back at Transport Canada.

Between Nav Canada and a number of other ATC corporatizations in other developed nations, there is a wealth of information and lessons learned that can be drawn on for the transition to the new U.S. ATC corporation. This session was a good start.

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Would Large-Scale PPPs Provide a Plan B for ATC Reform?

Another panel at the ATCA Annual was titled “The Full-Spectrum Multi-Agency PPP,” and was moderated by Chris Metts of Harris Corporation. An attorney from Akin Gump discussed potential spectrum reallocation public-private partnerships (P3s) and a McKinsey analyst provided an overview of P3s as used for large-scale infrastructure.

But I attended this breakout session largely to hear Michael Dyment of Nexa Capital. I’ve known Michael for a number of years, and earlier this year he sent me a 4-page white paper titled “ATC Reform: The Way Forward.” The point of this paper was that ATC corporatization is controversial and difficult—and might not get enacted any time soon. Meanwhile, the ATC system has modernization needs far beyond what’s included in NextGen, including a massive facility upgrade/replacement need. Hence, there should be a Plan B, which the paper called P3AMP, to use P3s to draw in private capital in case corporatization doesn’t happen.

Dyment’s panel presentation didn’t get very far into this idea, but fellow panelist Pat McNall (who helped develop FAA’s current Acquisition Management System) gave the examples of recent long-term FAA P3s, under which private companies finance, build, operate, and maintain both the ADS-B ground stations and the Datacom infrastructure, both ground and air. And more recently Dyment sent me the outline of a conference planned for DC in January2018 called “FAA Infrastructure Modernization, Innovative Financing, and Public Private Partnerships.” It’s an ambitious Plan B agenda, but as of October 31st, nearly all the speakers are listed only as TBD.

In general, I am supportive of long-term design/build/finance/operate/maintain P3s, and have done extensive research and writing on this concept as applied to surface transportation (mostly highways, bridges, and tunnels). But the more I think about this proposed Plan B for air traffic control, the more concerned I become. Here are the main reasons.

First, as last month’s article on the DOT Inspector General’s audit of FAA’s P3 contract for the ADS-B ground stations reported, the IG found that FAA is a pretty poor P3 contract manager. It has not sought to get best value for the annual payments it makes to the contractor; in some cases, it got fewer stations than planned but still paid the same price; and it has paid performance bonuses for only standard performance. It has also lost control for 28 years of a key component of its surveillance system, locking in place what might turn out to be less than optimal once space-based ADS-B is operational (assuming FAA finally decides to subscribe to the service).

Second, FAA’s whole Acquisition Management System is dysfunctional. Several decades of reports by the GAO and the Inspector General tell the same story—despite congressionally mandated personal and procurement reforms—of programs going far over budget and systems being delivered years late. Although FAA has some talented and dedicated engineers and managers, the overall system in which they exist makes it difficult to get to “yes” on large-scale project decisions. And as a civil service bureaucracy, FAA finds it hard to hire and keep the very best engineers, software writers, and program managers. That means proposed new systems are often poorly defined, leaving most of the details to contractors who often come up with many more “requirements” that may be “nice to have” rather than being actual requirements. My contacts at corporatized ANSPs call this phenomenon “requirements creep,” and it directly contributes to overly complex and very costly systems.

Corporatization is aimed, in part, at dramatically changing the organizational culture of the Air Traffic Organization, converting it from bureaucratic to entrepreneurial and businesslike. With new talent in hardware, software, and program management, a leaner and more outcome-focused approach to procurement would end requirements creep and produce more bang for the customers’ bucks. It would likely also give greater consideration to the large and growing number of fit-for-purpose ATC systems available off-the-shelf, instead of requiring that every new system be custom-designed with extensive bells and whistles.

A P3 approach relying on existing contractors and the existing procurement system is a recipe for poor results, despite the injection of private capital. Moreover, the existing conservative organizational culture is likely to seek to raise tens of billions of dollars in private capital to do more of the same, rather than rethinking how to deliver air traffic control services more cost-effectively. For example, under the current political “oversight” by Congress, solving the problem of worn-out, 50-year-old en-route centers would likely not emulate what overseas, customer-focused ANSPs have done: large-scale consolidation of facilities. One of the key goals of corporatization is to de-politicize decisions such as facility consolidation. It would be a massive waste of resources to spend tens of billions of dollars on massive P3 to replace all 20 en-route centers in their current locations, rather than replacing them with five or six consolidated centers that could seamlessly back each other up.

More than a decade ago when FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was trying to replace aviation excise taxes with bondable ATC user fees, several thoughtful commentators described giving FAA the ability to spend much larger sums of money without fundamental organizational culture change as “feeding the beast.” And that is very much my concern about a Plan B that focuses on giving an unreformed ATO access to huge amounts of private capital.

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Remote Tower Industry Expands

The emerging field of remote towers continues to add players—though no U.S. companies, thus far, perhaps due to the lack of any FAA program for this important new technology. At the ATCA Annual, I spent time at the stands of Frequentis and Ninox, and learned a lot about their plans to compete in the space pioneered by Saab (now partnered with LFV, the Swedish ANSP) and Searidge (now part-owned by NATS and Nav Canada).

Frequentis has three main airport projects under way. The largest of these is in Germany, working with DFS on a project to develop a remote tower center at Leipzig to serve the airports at Dresden, Erfurt, and Saarbrücken. These are considerably larger airports than the remote airports getting remote tower services in Norway and Sweden. In Austria, Frequentis is implementing a virtual ramp tower to provide improved surveillance of the apron areas. And it was recently selected as the provider for Ports of Jersey’s contingency tower. Frequentis calls its approach Remote Virtual Tower, and says it’s the only provider that has all the required capabilities within a single company.

Ninox is the name of a new joint venture company created by three parties: Norwegian ANSP Avinor, ATM system provider Indra Navia, and defense company Kongsberg. Their approach to remote towers uses a rotating housing with both visual and infrared cameras, providing five eye-resolution 360º views per second. The camera system was adapted from a Kongsberg system developed for the U.S. Army. The cameras are mounted on a mast at the same height as a conventional staffed tower’s cab. Avinor is implementing the largest remote tower program to date, under which 15 small remote airports will be controlled from a single remote tower center in Bodo, by the end of 2020. The remote equipment has already been installed at the first remote airport, in the small city of Rost in the north of Norway. A further 21 airports may get remote tower services thereafter.

Searidge has had two recent U.S. wins. It was selected as the provider for the state-funded RT project in Loveland, Colorado. That airport is the busiest one in Colorado that lacks a control tower. At the Fort Lauderdale, Florida airport, Searidge is providing video and infrared cameras for a virtual ramp tower developed by AirT, a division of Amadeus.

And, as previously reported in this newsletter, the Saab/LFV joint venture called Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions has won the contract to work with NATS on London City Airport’s new remote tower, whose control room will be located at NATS’ Swanwick center in Hampshire.

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AOPA and NBAA Spread Misinformation

I’ve been doing transportation policy for more than 25 years, and in all that time, I have never seen a more vicious, deliberate set of lies and distortion than the campaign being waged by AOPA and NBAA against converting the Air Traffic Organization into a self-supporting nonprofit utility. The numerous changes to the 2016 House bill aimed at responding to concerns raised by small airports, private pilots, and business jet operators are being totally ignored, as AOPA and NBAA present outright untruths and extensive distortions of government reports and the bill’s actual provisions. Here are some of the most common claims these two groups are making.

Claim: “HR 2997 simply hands over our Air Traffic Control system to a board controlled by the airlines and special interests,” AOPA letter to members (Summer 2017)
Fact: The ATO would be converted to a federally chartered nonprofit corporation, governed by a 13-member board of directors nominated by a cross-section of aviation stakeholders. General and business aviation would nominate 2 members, big airlines 1 member, cargo airlines 1, and regional airlines serving small airports 1 member. Airports, unions, and others would also nominate members and so would the Secretary of Transportation. No board member could be employed by or receive compensation from any aviation organization while serving on this board.

Claim: “According to the Congressional Budget Office, HR 2977 will add $100 billion to the deficit,” AOPA letter to members (Summer 2017)
Fact: not true (see previous article in this newsletter and analysis by Eno Transportation Weekly)

Claim: “Once the ATC system is governed by what will essentially be an airline cartel, the private entity could assume authority for taxation,” NBAA President Ed Bolen column in Professional Pilot, October 2017
Fact: Utilities, including the proposed ATC corporation, do not have taxing authority. They are authorized by law to charge fees for the services they provide to customers.

Claim: “[T]he plan’s effect of shifting jurisdiction over $14 billion in air transportation excise taxes to a private board . . .” AOPA President Mark Baker, AOPA Pilot, September 2017
Fact: Aviation taxes will be reduced by $11 billion a year, as the ATC corporation shifts to ATC fees to cover its costs. The remaining $3 billion a year in aviation taxes will support remaining FAA programs, appropriated, as now, by Congress.

Claim: “Privatization would cost tens of billions of dollars . . . Additionally, costs would go up for every traveler,” AOPA Action page, AOPA Pilot, November 2017
Fact: Since only airlines would be paying ATC charges, their 3 nominees on the 13-member board would have a strong incentive to make ATC more efficient, and passengers would no longer face large ticket taxes when they fly. Nowhere in the world does any ATC corporation impose fees on passengers.

Claim: “A privatized ATC system would inherently be ‘too big to fail,’ resulting in taxpayer bailouts,” AOPA Action, AOPA Pilot, November 2017
Fact: There has never been an ATC corporation bankruptcy, nor a “taxpayer bailout” in over 30 years of ATC corporatization involving 60+ countries.

Claim: “The Congressional Research Service says that HR 2997 is most likely unconstitutional because this private entity could impose fees on passengers with no oversight by Congress,” AOPA letter to members, Summer 2017
Fact: CRS cited three possible points that could be argued on constitutional grounds, none of which had anything to do with imposing fees on passengers—and it said all three could easily be fixed by minor changes in the bill’s wording.

I could go on, but this is getting very tiring. I find it disgusting to have to argue against lies and distortions like these. An honest debate on the merits of the actual proposal would be worth having, but these kinds of claims suggest that AOPA and NBAA have no good arguments on the merits.

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News Notes

Netjets Backs ATC Corporation. The nation’s largest operator of business aircraft, with a fleet of 600 business jets, has endorsed corporatization of the U.S. air traffic control system. The endorsement came in an Oct. 4, 2017 letter to Chairman Bill Shuster (R, PA) of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The letter cites “budget uncertainties and outmoded equipment and systems” as reasons for the company’s support. It also notes that last year its fleet of planes made nearly 900 landings per day, serving over 4,000 airports.

Editor Blasts Sully’s Statements on ATC Reform. Karen Walker, editor of Air Transport World, took Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to task this summer for parroting the NBAA party line that falsely portrays ATC corporatization as giving “an important and valuable national asset” to the big airlines. She points out that “The type of organization the U.S. is looking to create would mirror those established in places such as Canada, the U.K., and New Zealand, all of which operate far more efficiently, with greater technology, and at least as safely as the U.S.” You can read “Sully’s Misleading Statements on U.S. ATC Reform” on Air Transport World‘s Editor’s Blog.

Third Launch Expands Space-Based ADS-B Constellation. Aireon announced on October 13th the successful launch of 10 more Iridium NEXT satellites, each of which includes the Aireon ADS-B package. That brings the total to 30 orbiting satellites, many of which are already receiving information from aircraft in flight and transmitting the data to ground stations. The fourth launch, with 10 more satellites, is scheduled for December 22nd, once again on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Amendment Would Prohibit Appropriations for ATC Corporation. Chairman Bill Shuster, responding to opponents’ claims that the planned ATC corporation would be “too big to fail” and might have to receive a bailout by taxpayers, told House members on October 3rd that he plans an amendment to the bill (the AIRR Act) creating the corporation that would explicitly prohibit federal appropriations for the private, nonprofit ATC corporation.

ATC Reform and Service to Small Communities. Rui Neiva of the Eno Center for Transportation posted an excellent response to the fears generated in small cities and rural America that the planned ATC corporation would jeopardize access to the national airspace. He summarizes Chapter 907 of the AIRR Act which has a number of provisions protecting access to small airports and the continuation of low-cost contract towers for small airports. In effect, it gives the Secretary of Transportation oversight over access to the airspace, enabling him to veto any proposed cutbacks in access that the corporation might someday propose. “ATC Reform, General Aviation, and Service to Small Communities” is available at the Eno website, https://enotrans.org.

Media Pushback Against NBAA Campaign. Bloomberg aviation reporter Alan Levin went after NBAA’s self-interested campaign to defeat ATC corporatization by highlighting how little high-end business jets pay for ATC services compared with ordinary citizens flying coach. His well-researched September 7th article provides direct comparisons of user taxes paid by commercial aircraft and comparable private planes—for example, $2,383 in passenger ticket taxes (Atlanta to Minneapolis) versus $122 in jet fuel taxes for the business jet. He also noted that everywhere else in the world, bizjets pay weight-distance ATC fees, rather than miniscule fuel taxes. Overall, Levin found that “High-performance private planes make up about 10 percent of U.S. flights under air traffic control, yet pay less than 1 percent into a trust fund that finances air traffic control.” The article is headlined “Football Champs and CEOs Alike Sidestep Taxes with Private Jets.”

ATCA Awardees Include Military and Nav Canada Controllers. At the awards luncheon at the 2017 Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference, two of the five Andy Pitas Aircraft Safety Awards went to controllers from Nav Canada, with the others awarded to FAA controllers. Boeing received the ATCA overall Safety Award for its lead role in developing Flightdeck Interval Management Spacing, while Frequentis took the Industry Award for numerous ATC innovations in use worldwide. Don Thoma (CEO of Aireon), Ben Marcus (CEO of AirMap), and Jim Eck of FAA each received a President’s Citation of Merit. Congratulations, all.

FABEC Moving to Free Route Airspace in the Heart of Europe. FABEC is a consortium of the air navigation service providers of Belgium, France, Germany. Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland—some of the busiest and most complex airspace in Europe. A review article in Air Traffic Management (Quarter 3, Fall 2017) summarizes FABEC’s ongoing progress toward routine free route airspace by 2022. FABEC is also working on FRA interfaces with adjacent Functional Airspace Blocs, such as FAB UK and FAB SW.

New Report Summarizes Aviation Public-Private Partnerships. The Aviation chapter of Reason Foundation’s long-running Annual Privatization Report series was released in October. It covers airport privatization and P3s, air traffic control reform, and the use of contract services in airport security. The Annual Privatization Report 2017 chapter on aviation, written by the editor of this newsletter, is available at http://reason.org/files/annual_privatization_report_2017_air_transportation.pdf.

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Quotable Quotes

“A CEO on a Gulfstream doesn’t make a great poster child for government welfare, so the NBAA has spotlighted other groups enjoying subsidies under the current system, like small-town airports and private pilots (though they’re not exactly poverty-stricken, either). The trade group whipped up fears that major airlines would take over the [ATC] system and impose crippling fees and restrictions. These claims were baseless, because the airlines would be a distinct minority on the new corporation’s board, but the NBAA spread the fears by bankrolling front groups, including one called the Alliance for Aviation Across America.”
—John Tierney, “Well-Heeled Fliers Against Air-Traffic Reform,” City Journal blog, October 17, 2017

“From 2010 until my retirement in 2015, I managed the Air Traffic Organization’s Administrative Services Group at the Service Center in Fort Worth, TX. The wasted time and resources expended while trying to anticipate what Congress might decide with respect to our funding, staffing levels, and resources was beyond wasteful. Closing the FAA Academy and related training efforts made as much sense as skipping the planting season while expecting the harvest. The agency, including the dedicated professionals represented by NATCA, is composed of hard-working, well-meaning public servants, doing the best they can under the constraints forced upon them. However, the reforms designed to free the agency from personnel (HR) and procurement limitations have not worked. There is no classification system for job categories. The compensation and performance measurement systems are without identifiable form or function. They are more like rituals. The future of a viable ATC system depends on the pending legislation and the modernization it can bring.”
—Lyndon Dyer, email to this newsletter, September 29, 2017 (quoted with the author’s permission)

“[The nonprofit corporation model] would be very positive for NextGen. It would provide the funding stability to adequately support long-term modernization, preventive maintenance, and ongoing modernization of our physical infrastructure. ATC reform is needed to remove the threat of delays to NextGen modernization programs and not jeopardize their success. We cannot allow the current stop-and-go funding uncertainty to undermine NextGen. For example, both ERAM and Metroplex experienced significant delays in 2013, as work was stopped on these key NextGen programs for several months. Originally, the waterfall schedules for ERAM and Metroplex were designed to complement each other, so that installation for one did not conflict with or negatively affect installation of the other. However, because of this multi-month delay, the ERAM team was forced to shuffle its waterfall schedule, creating numerous unnecessary conflicts with Metroplex schedules, which in turn further delayed both programs.”
—Paul Rinaldi, President, NATCA, “U.S. Insights Survey 2017,” Air Traffic Management, Quarter 3, Fall 2017

“The real problem [for general aviation] is the current state of air traffic control. The status quo, with its inconsistent funding and risk of government shutdowns, is what threatens general aviation access, particularly in rural areas. Under the reform proposal, the non-profit corporation, with its consistent revenue stream and improved management, would be able to more rapidly deploy remote and virtual control towers to improve access by reducing the cost of providing air traffic control services at rural, low-volume airports.”
—Marc Scribner, “Air Traffic Control Might Finally Move into the 21st Century,” Washington Examiner, October 18, 2017

“There are very obvious holes in the National Airspace System surveillance picture that were filled by the deployment of the ground-based ADS-B infrastructure. The business case for that deployment was based on select removal of secondary radars in the terminal airspace. This is an example of the challenges of policy, not technology. Will the FAA ever remove a single radar as the business case contemplated? If not, it would be because the policy was not strong enough to handle the push-back from pilots or controllers. As for additional opportunities, the FAA business case did not consider the en-route secondary radars and can review that approach with the addition of space-based ADS-B. Space-based ADS-B will provide surveillance in the oceanic domain, extending the ADS-B capabilities beyond the benefits projected in the original business case, clearly countering the notion of ‘no operational necessity,'”
—Vincent Capezzuto, Chief Technology Officer, Aireon Corporation, “U.S. Insights Survey,” Air Traffic Management, Quarter 3, Fall 2017

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