Air Traffic Control Newsletter #155

Air Traffic Control Reform Newsletter

Air Traffic Control Newsletter #155

White House revives air traffic control corporation proposal, controller hiring, remote towers, and more.

In this issue:

White House Revives ATC Corporation Proposal

In a major report released today, the White House has proposed sweeping reforms and reorganization of the administrative branch of the federal government. Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century calls for shifting various functions among agencies, divesting federal electricity transmission assets, privatizing the US Postal Services, and many other changes.

For the Department of Transportation, the report notes correctly that DOT’s main functions are providing financial assistance for transportation provided by state and local governments and safety regulation of all modes. Standing out as anomalies are two cases in which DOT operates transportation modes—the FAA’s air traffic control system and locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway. It refers to these as “misalignments” with DOT’s overall mission. I certainly agree.

Accordingly, the report calls for divesting the ATC system from FAA, ideally to a nonprofit corporation similar to the one operating successfully for more than two decades in Canada, and divesting DOT’s operational role in the Seaway. Doing this “would allow them to have better governance structures and insulation from the political system, and allow them to better assess fees based on actual usage of their systems.” And converting the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization to a Canadian-style nonprofit “has strong policy merits, as evidenced by the approximately 60 countries that have shifted air traffic responsibilities to non-governmental providers.”

There are other worthwhile transportation reforms included, such as shifting responsibilities for port dredging and inland waterways from the Army Corps of Engineers to DOT. Overall, it looks like a carefully thought-out and sensible realignment of who does what within DOT and a whole raft of other federal agencies. The big question is: will any of this lead to actual changes in the federal structure?

In the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Congress today, good-government reforms that make a world of sense are likely to championed by those of the President’s party and damned by the opposition. But even without that, there is the tyranny of the status quo. Congressional appropriations committee members from both parties, in both houses of Congress, have opposed air traffic control corporatization due to loss of turf—the opportunity to make policy by having control of the purse strings. (And that is certainly true of those responsible for the Army Corps, who will stoutly resist giving up their “oversight” of ports and inland waterways, regardless of the merits of shifting those functions to DOT.)

Still, since there is a long list of reasons for depoliticizing ATC—making it self-supporting, providing new governance via a board of stakeholders analogous to the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC), and enabling it to issue revenue bonds for modernization of facilities and technology—perhaps there is now a chance for the Senate to come up with its own version of corporatization, as part of the still-to-be-completed Senate FAA reauthorization bill. Or at the very least, to remove the Air Traffic Organization from FAA (and from civil service) as a stand-alone DOT modal agency. That in itself would be a meaningful reform.

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“Politically Correct” Controller Hiring Still With Us

The FAA’s bizarre controller recruitment policy, under which preference for college-trained aviation graduates was removed, and the emphasis was placed on off-the-street candidates who could “pass” a new Biographical Assessment (BA), is being challenged in a lawsuit by the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Two national media this month focused renewed attention on this fiasco. On June 1st, the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News featured attorney Michael W. Pearson (an expert witness in the litigation) explaining the genesis of the 2014 policy change. And on June 6th, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley devoted a column to the story.

As Pearson explained on the air, during the Obama administration, FAA’s human resources staff, egged on by the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, decided that the controller workforce was “too white.” With no prior warning, FAA launched a new “off-the-street” recruitment process in 2014, telling graduates of the FAA-sponsored Collegiate Training Initiative that they no longer had priority, and could only be considered if they passed the highly subjective BA. Expert witness Pearson is a retired 27-year air traffic controller with a deep understanding of the field.

Congress passed bipartisan legislation in 2016 to reform controller hiring, restoring some preference for CTI grads, but retaining a large role for off-the-street hires and the BA. The lawsuit seeks to scrap that and return to the pre-2014 recruitment policy. There are several reasons why this makes sense.

First and foremost, letting politicized “diversity” concerns take priority over recruiting the best-qualified and most-likely-to succeed candidates puts aviation safety at risk. Second, there is data (which FAA has refused to release) showing that CTI graduates greatly out-perform off-the-street hires in making it all the way to full certification. Since it costs FAA about $250,000 to get a recruit all the way through the process, a high wash-out rate wastes considerable amounts of scarce FAA resources. Third, the Association for Collegiate Training Initiative (ACTI) has data showing that the diversity profile of CTI graduates already exceeded FAA’s targets when the 2014 policy change was made.

When I wrote about this subject several years ago, during the initial publicity that led to congressional action, I heard from several friends at corporatized ATC providers in other countries. They were appalled that the Air Traffic Organization allowed itself to jeopardize the quality of its future controller workforce by not resisting this outright politicization. And indeed, that is yet another reason for de-politicizing the ATO, to insulate it from this kind meddling from political appointees.

Yet it seems that under the Trump administration, neither DOT nor FAA has gotten the message. According to Jason Riley’s WSJ commentary, “the Trump administration is fighting in court to preserve the Obama-era policy.” In several other cases, the administration is refusing to defend Obama-era policies that are being challenged in court. Why on earth isn’t it taking on the politicization of air traffic controller recruitment?

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FAA’s Air Traffic Organization Still Lags in Productivity

In an April 10th speech at the Aviation Week Network’s MRO Americas conference, former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta lamented the lack of a “facts-based discussion” in recent efforts on ATC reform. I share that concern, and would have welcomed a serious debate (or series of debates) with opponents of corporatization, for example on claims that the governing board would be “airline-dominated”, that small airports were at risk of losing (or not getting) control towers, and that FAA’s Air Traffic Organization is the world’s most-efficient (rather than just the largest) air navigation service provider (ANSP).

The latter claim, for example, could easily have been settled by reference to data, and for the past seven years, the global trade association for ANSPs—the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO)—has assembled data, from those members willing to provide it, on a host of key performance indicators. Participants include some (but by no means all) of the world’s large and small ANSPs, including both the FAA ATO (largest) and Nav Canada (2nd-largest). Since we know there are economies of scale in air traffic control (yes, size does matter), the larger the ANSP, the lower its unit costs could be. So what do the numbers tell us about this comparison?

The data source is CANSO’s Global Air Navigation Services Report 2017: The ANSP View. This online document provides the raw data, explains the methodology to construct each key performance indicator (KPI), and notes that all cost numbers have been converted to U.S. dollars, for apples vs. apples comparison. Reviewing the data from all 32 participants in the 2017 report, it is clear that there is some degree of economies of scale, but since costs such as payroll are so much lower in developing countries, metrics involving costs are best compared among ANSPs in countries at the same level of economic development.

For purposes of the debate over U.S. corporatization, the key question is whether the ATO, with about nine times as many annual IFR movements as 2nd-largest Nav Canada, has significantly higher productivity than its smaller neighbor. Two KPIs are most relevant for this comparison. The first is the cost per IFR flight hour, measured separately for domestic flights and oceanic flights.

Cost/IFR flight hour FAA ATO Nav Canada Difference
Domestic $453 $316 30% lower
Oceanic $96 $54 44% lower

Those are pretty large differences. What this means is that even though the ATO should benefit from significant scale economies, the smaller Nav Canada is significantly more productive (and without in any way impairing safety).

The second KPI is IFR flight hours per controller hour, another productivity metric. Here are the numbers:

IFR flight-hrs/controller hour  ATO Nav Canada Difference
Domestic 1.08 1.19 9.2% more
Oceanic 6.18 6.79 9.0% more

You can see that domestic ATC is far more labor-intensive than oceanic ATC, but here, again, smaller Nav Canada attains higher productivity.

What these comparisons suggest is that were the ATO freed from politicization, enabled to make business decisions (such as consolidation of its aging Centers and TRACONs), and had the means to efficiently finance productivity-increasing technology, it might begin taking advantage of the economies of scale that its size could provide.

Maybe next time we can have a real debate on the merits of corporatization.

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Origins of the Global ATC Providers Organization

Today, most people in aviation take it for granted that in global aviation discussions, airlines are represented by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airports by Airports Council International (ACI), and air navigation service providers by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO). But back in the days when ATC was everywhere part of government transport ministries, ATC was unrepresented in global discussions. That all changed when CANSO was organized in the mid-1990s.

In writing a chapter on ATC for a forthcoming book on public-private partnerships in infrastructure, I got in touch with a former CANSO Director General (Graham Lake) and the current DG, Jeff Poole (no relation). Both were very helpful in filling in details of how CANSO came to be. Lake recalled some early discussions in New Zealand in 1994, and Poole provided a copy of a document signed in September 1995 by the founding fathers of the organization, each the CEO of a corporatized ANSP:

  • Dieter Kaden of DFS (Germany)
  • Johan Rausch of AustroControl (Austria)
  • Peter Proulx of Airways New Zealand
  • Jerry Coetzee of ATNS (South Africa)
  • Padet Limpisvasti of AeroThai
  • Peter Materna of ANS Czech Republic
  • Derek McLauchlan of NATS (UK)

The document they signed laid out six objectives for the yet-to-be-named organization:

  1. Provide a forum for ATC organizations
  2. Support development of commercialization in ATC
  3. Agree on standards of performance measurement
  4. Provide for information exchange among the members
  5. Be an umbrella organization for ATC providers (like ACI and IATA)
  6. Influence the choice of technologies for future global ATC development

Poole relates that 1996 is considered CANSO’s official first year, but the CANSO charter was not finalized until 1998, in Geneva. This year—2018—was the occasion (this month) of CANSO’s 22nd annual general meeting.

Initially, the members were mostly corporatized ATC providers, but over time the decision was made to include all ATC providers that wished to join. At last count, CANSO had 88 full members (ANSPs, a term that CANSO appears to have put into the aviation vocabulary), along with 77 associate members (companies that provide equipment and services to ANSPs). An informal count of the types of full members, provided to me by a CANSO staffer in 2015, was that of those 88 members, 26 were civil aviation authorities that include both ATC services and air safety regulation (though generally in separate divisions); 24 were incorporated under civil law as ATC corporations, and 38 were state-owned ATC corporations. The latter two categories total 62 in which ATC is self-supporting and separate from the government air safety regulator.

Though much younger than IATA or ACI, CANSO has earned its place in global aviation circles, interacting with the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), representing ANSPs in the European Union’s Single European Sky efforts, and focusing attention on air traffic management as a vital part of aviation infrastructure. It’s a very positive track record for a relatively young global organization.

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Remote Towers and ATC-Zero

When a tower, TRACON, or Center suddenly goes off-line, that situation is known as ATC-Zero. A retired controller emailed the following to me last year:

“ATC-Zero is a scary situation for controllers. Without a viable contingency plan, you are put into a helpless and hopeless situation. Having a radar screen go blank makes your heart stop. When Austin tower and TRACON went ATC-Zero [in 2015], they had no redundancy. Especially in the tower function: there is no backup control tower standing in the corner of the airfield, waiting for that opportunity to be used.”

My informant, John Gilding, suggested that this could be an opportunity to use virtual/remote towers as contingency capability.

In the January 2017 issue of this newsletter, I summarized a report from the DOT Office of Inspector General (AV-2017020) which found that the FAA had a long way to go to prepare all of its facilities and airspace for ATC-Zero events. That report discussed four planned NextGen capabilities that would help achieve this goal:

  1. NAS Voice Switch (NVS),
  2. System Wide Information Management (SWIM),
  3. Flight & Interfacility Data Interface (FIDI), and
  4. Surveillance Interface Modernization (SIM).

As of last year, only the first two appeared to be making good progress; OIG reported that for numbers 3 and 4, “total cost and completion date is unknown.”

John Croft provided a useful update on NVS in Aviation Week last year (Feb. 20-March 5, 2017). It’s being developed and will be implemented by Harris Corporation under a 20-year, $5 billion contract, with an estimated completion date of 2025. NVS will replace numerous legacy voice communications systems (including rotary-dial phones!) with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology. That will permit controllers in one facility to communicate with traffic at another facility, which they cannot do today. But the fully operational date for NVS is seven years away.

Gilding suggested that a virtual tower capability could be a low-cost, and faster-to-implement, way of giving a tower and/or TRACON backup capability, under which the same controllers who work at the temporarily out-of-service facility could resume operations quickly. This would require installing the usual array of remote-tower cameras and other equipment at the airport, linked to a simple control room nearby (and obviously equipped with its own uninterruptible power system and duplicate communications links). In locations (like Austin) where flooding is a danger, the control room location (and power supply, etc.) would be above projected flood zones.

Contingency tower functions based on remote tower technology are already operational at London Heathrow and Budapest airports, and pilot projects have been approved for such facilities at Auckland International and Singapore Changi Airport.

Alas, remote towers are not part of NextGen, and only within the past year has FAA had any budget at all to begin work on this critically important technology. Surely, virtual contingency towers should be considered as a key addition to FAA’s plans for dealing with ATC-Zero events.

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Electronic Flight Strips in Complex London Terminal Airspace

Fourteen years after electronic flight strips (e-strips) replaced paper flight strips at 17 NATS control towers in the United Kingdom, e-strips technology has now been implemented in London Terminal Control (LTC) airspace, which handles approaches and departures for all five London airports. The technology is the latest version of EXCDS, a system developed and marketed by Nav Canada. In addition to being in use for 19 years in all the company’s ATC facilities in Canada, it has been adopted by ANSPs in Australia, Denmark, Dubai, the Dutch Caribbean, India, and Italy, as well as the UK.

For the very complex and high-traffic LTC airspace, the transition from paper flight strips to EXCDS e-strips required extensive planning by NATS, software customization by Nav Canada, extensive training by NATS, and a phased implementation in each of the five airspace sectors that comprise the LTC. The process of adapting the software also required changes in procedures that had to be worked out with NATS controllers. As Ian Thompson reported in a detailed article earlier this year in Air Traffic Management, a previous attempt at converting to e-strips had not gone well, which means controllers began the EXCDS projects with some degree of skepticism.

Fortunately, some of the NATS team that had implemented EXCDS in UK control towers more than a decade ago became part of the transition effort for LTC. For the duration of the implementation, they relocated to the Swanwick Center where LTC is housed. That made the initial orientation and training of a core group of controllers—done using spare consoles in the operations room—proceed relatively well. And since the actual transition for each sector needed to take place with minimal disruption of air traffic, NATS worked with its airline customers to agree on somewhat lower traffic levels for the first 10 days of e-strips operation in each sector. The first sector was cut over in November 2017, and the second in January 2018. The remaining three sectors have been phased in during April through June, and by the time you read this newsletter, the last sector should be fully operational.

That means some 300 controllers, making use of 72 touch-screen terminals, are now using e-strips to manage traffic in one of the world’s busiest and most complex airspaces. Peter Dawson, the NATS general manager of LTC, told Air Traffic Management that the replacement of paper strips was necessary “to keep pace with the rapid growth in traffic.” He added that in addition to safety benefits (e.g., avoiding hand-written scribbles on paper strips), the system will increase productivity. “If we can provide more ‘head-room’ to controllers by reducing workload, we can then increase the number of aircraft handled by the sectors. . . .  Our future operation involves the smoothing of traffic peaks between the sectors. If this can be achieved, we will have a greater overall capacity and a more-manageable operation.”

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Drones and Air Traffic Management

As drones and drone-based services continue to proliferate, governments and airspace users are racing to come up with cost-effective ways to prevent errant drones from downing manned aircraft; colliding with each other and falling onto cars, roadways, or pedestrians; or intruding into off-limits airspace such as airports and military bases. So far, there seems to be no consensus anywhere.

Our federal government seems to be divided between those that want to open up opportunities for new drone services and those intent on creating the broad authority to shoot down errant drones. In recent weeks, the U.S. DOT has announced 10 winning teams in its UAS Integration Pilot Program, under which each will negotiate an agreement with FAA giving it exemptions from various existing regulations in order to demonstrate services, such as clearing debris from airport runways, de-conflicting package delivery drone operations in Raleigh, NC, and delivering blood specimens to labs.

At the same time, various federal agencies (DOD, DHS, CBP, etc.) are seeking new federal legislation authorizing them to “disrupt or take down” drones that intrude into prohibited areas. This includes agencies dealing with wildfire suppression, since drones can be hazardous to aerial fire-suppression bombers.

Meanwhile, Uber and other developers of drone air-taxi vehicles are counting on streamlined FAA certification of large fleets that they plan to have operating overhead in large metro areas by early next decade. Yet there is no sign that FAA is prepared to implement radically different regulation of drones.

And that concern was the focal point of a study by a special committee organized by the National Academy of Sciences, whose report was released on June 11th. Its rather innocuous title—“Assessing the Risks of Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the National Airspace System”—belied its stark assessment that FAA regulation is a serious barrier to America receiving large benefits from drones of various kinds. The report concluded that FAA’s “overly conservative approach to safety risk assessment” overestimates the severity and likelihood of risks from drones and fails to weigh them against benefits to the larger society. It argues that FAA’s historical approach has focused almost entirely on risks and benefits to those taking part in the aviation system, where “a near-zero tolerance for risk” may well be appropriate.

Instead, the report calls for “FAA to establish and publish specific guidelines within the next 12 months for implementing a predictable, repeatable, quantitative risk-based process for certifying UAS systems . . . . ” In doing so, FAA “should expand its perspective on quantitative risk assessment to look more holistically at the total safety risk. For example, FAA should consider the safety benefit that accrues when a drone allows for cell tower inspections without the need for a human to climb the tower.” This is a very tall order, and I would be astonished if FAA could come up with anything defensible within only 12 months.

Besides safety regulation, the other unresolved question is UAS traffic control. NASA continues its work on a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) concept, with its final phase scheduled for next year: how to keep drones safely separated over dense urban areas. According to a recent Scientific American article (May 15, 2018), once that phase is completed, NASA will turn the whole thing over to FAA to implement—and I say good luck with that! Aviation experts cited in that article expressed skepticism that FAA could possibly implement “a system that scales up quickly enough to accommodate the expected demand in commercial delivery services,” let alone for thousands of drone air taxis. Also unmentioned in any of the numerous articles I’ve read is how drone operators would pay for the services of a UTM system.

One ANSP appears to be taking the lead on implementing some form of UTM: Airways New Zealand. Aviation Week’s Adrian Schofield reports that it has been testing an approach in Christchurch and Queenstown, using an app developed by U.S. company AirMap (which is also involved in more than half of the FAA’s winning IPP teams). Airways is expected to issue a formal RFP for a nationwide UTM system within the next few months, and hopes to begin implementation by the end of this year. That’s far ahead of any other country’s plans.

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News Notes

UPS Joins the ADS-B/In Crowd. Aviation Week reports that UPS plans to equip 137 of its 757 and 767 freighters with the Rockwell Collins Large Display System that will replace six CRT displays and several analog instruments, while saving 80 lbs. per aircraft. The new display will also permit cockpit display of traffic information using ADS-B/In, and UPS may resume using this capability for in-trail positioning, as it did in a pilot program about a decade ago. UPS joins American, Alaska, and United in moving to implement ADS-B/In.

French ANSP Implementing Flexible Airspace. DSNA, the French ANSP, has announced that a large block of shared civil/military airspace within the Bordeaux center’s jurisdiction is being divided into smaller blocks. This will permit the military to reserve smaller blocks in many cases, freeing up space for more direct flights on routes such as Paris-Barcelona and those linking Switzerland and Spain, overflying France. DSNA estimates up to 1.5% fuel burn savings for its customers.

Proposed Airline Regulations Counterproductive, Says DOT. In a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson (D, FL), DOT Deputy General Counsel James Owens deemed proposed consumer protection regulations in the draft FAA reauthorization bill “unnecessary, expensive, and counterproductive.” The proposed measure would require DOT to decide which airline ancillary fees are “unreasonable or disproportionate to the cost incurred by the air carrier.” Candidates include fees for checked baggage, seat selection, flight changes, and flight cancellations. The DOT letter said the proposed regulations would “reverse to a significant extent the ground-rules that have governed the airline industry since the Carter Administration,” when the Airline Deregulation Act was passed in 1978, 40 years ago this year.

Next Step for Remote Tower Pilot Project at Leesburg, VA. Phase 3a of the pilot project testing a remote tower at Leesburg Executive Airport will begin on June 25th and will run for 30 days. The airport lacks a control tower, and for the pilot project, it is being served by a mobile tower along with Saab Sensis remote tower equipment. During Phase 3a, all pilots using the airport will be required to contact the tower, whether flying VFR or IFR. The costs of the project are being covered by the Virginia Small Aircraft Transportation System Laboratory and Saab Sensis.

New Charters for Two FAA Advisory Committees. FAA has issued new charters to the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) and the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) as stand-alone federal advisory committees. As part of the change, FAA declined to renew its long-standing contract with advisory body RTCA, which had previously managed both NAC and DAC. RTCA has announced that it will reconstitute itself as an independent Standards Development Organization, and expects to continue working with FAA on special committees (SCs) and the Program Management Committee (PMC).

Groups Urge Senate to Support Supersonic Flight. In a June 18th letter to Sens. John Thune (R, SD) and Bill Nelson (D, FL) of the Senate Commerce Committee, a group of think tanks and a legal-action group requested that the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill repeal the ban on operating supersonic civil aircraft over U.S. territory and direct the FAA to develop a sonic boom noise standard, as proposed by Sens. Mike Lee (R, UT) and Cory Gardner (R, CO). The letter was initiated by the Niskanen Center, joined by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, R Street, Tech Freedom, and the Committee for Justice.

Westbound Phoenix Flight Routes Restored. Fulfilling part of a court-ordered noise settlement, FAA on May 24th made the second of two changes to westbound departure routes, restoring them to historic patterns. The next step will be to develop new routes for western departures, making use of a public outreach and feedback process. The changes implemented in 2014, part of FAA’s Metroplex program, were challenged by residents newly affected by noise exposure and were judged “arbitrary and capricious” by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Separately, anti-noise opposition is building to FAA’s relatively new Northeast Corridor Initiative (urged by the NextGen Advisory Committee) aimed at de-conflicting airport operations, increasing airport and airspace throughput, and better balancing capacity and demand.

FAA Managers’ Group Opposes “Back-Door Privatization”. In an editorial in Managing the Skies, the magazine of the FAA Managers Association, executive director Louis Dupart writes that FAAMA “will remain diligent in ensuring that there is no language in either the House or Senate [reauthorization] bill that would enable FAA to begin ‘back-door’ privatization by eliminating or re-categorizing jobs and key FAA functions.” He added that “Now is not the time for any realignment of missions or the workforce.” So the status quo is just fine? I seem to recall dozens and dozens of DOT Inspector General audits and GAO reports saying otherwise. To recall a Reagan-era phrase, “If not now, when?”

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Quotable Quotes

“Many countries still have combined [ATC] and regulatory responsibilities. In Asia, for instance, it is very difficult to make rapid progress, as [ATC] typically reports to a Director General whose two customers are the [Transport] Minister and ICAO. The airlines are not true stakeholders. Service provision and regulation are fundamentally different and require separate governance and management.”
—Ashley Smout, Airways New Zealand, “Parting Thoughts,” Airspace, Quarter 2, 2011

“The FAA’s massive recruiting effort, despite its cheerful talking points and rosy public statements, has angered students who were told to go through the CTI program to get hired at a cost of thousands of dollars. Our fear is that those great schools will lose their students if they can get hired by simply applying online or at a local job fair. This is a serious problem, because CTI students come to the agency armed with the experience needed to comfortably fit into the incredibly demanding on-the-job training program at their first air traffic control facility, greatly increasing their chance of successfully becoming a fully certified controller.”
—Pat Forrey, NATCA, “FAA’s Off-the-Street Mass Hiring Undercutting CTI Students’ Work, Creating a Class System, Jeopardizing Collegiate Program’s Future,” NATCA news release, April 26, 2007

“What we are exploring with this concept is that when you apply ICAO separation standards at an airport, you can shorten the minimum spacing once a controller can visually see the approaching aircraft from the tower window. The idea is that if you can see an aircraft on short final from the window, and you can see the next one on this display, it’s the same as seeing them both out the window. And even on a nice day in Dubai, it’s kind of hazy.”
—Neil Bowles, Searidge Technologies, in John Croft, “Terra Firma Flight Deck,” Aviation Week, September 4-17, 2017

“[I’m concerned about] the disappearance of internal technical competence [at ANSPs]. I think it’s OK for smaller ANSPs to acquire standard systems and depend on outside contractors. I do not think it is OK for large ANSPs, which we expect to be the source of innovation and advanced functionality. A critical loss of internal technical competence can be seen at several large ANSPs. . . . I agree that it is difficult to bring management in from outside the ATC community. However, that does not mean it should never be done. Having airline, ATC systems or avionics experience is helpful. Stagnation will occur if there is no outside insertion, but it needs to be done carefully and strategically. Martin Rolfe, NATS’ CEO, for example, ran the UK Lockheed Martin business. He was in NATS for about five years before being appointed CEO.”
—Sid Koslow, former VP and Chief Technology Officer, Nav Canada, personal communication, January 2018

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