Air Traffic Control Newsletter #136

Air Traffic Control Reform Newsletter

Air Traffic Control Newsletter #136

ATC reform goes mainstream | GAO on ATC transition issues

In this issue:

The ATC Reform Case Goes Mainstream

August is normally a month when people go on vacation and don’t pay much attention to public policy issues. But on the subject of reforming the U.S. ATC system, August saw two mainstream periodicals bring the reform case to ordinary thinking people. And they were followed up by more strong statements from aviation professionals.

Leading the general media effort was a long feature article in Popular Mechanics, “How to Fix Flying,” part 1 of which was Chris Clarke’s “Out of Air Traffic Control.” The thrust of the piece was the truthful statement that “American air traffic control no longer has the most modern equipment, the most efficient aircraft routings, or the best technology.” In solid journalistic fashion, Clarke dinged FAA for still relying on paper flight strips, voice radio, and 1950s-era radar and Instrument Landing Systems while just about everyone in the country uses GPS for navigation. He quoted one controller as lamenting, “Paper strips, pre-Commodore flight data input/output, landline communication from around the Apollo program era [at] one of the busiest approach controls in the world. . . . This is what relying on Congress for funding does.” Clarke ends up noting the global, ICAO-blessed practice of separating air safety regulation from ATC service provision, consolidating facilities (since “there’s no reason air traffic could not be managed from anywhere”), and noting the Shuster bill ATC corporation that was approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in February.

One week later, The Economist‘s “Difference Engine” blog carried a strong piece headlined “Antiquated Air Traffic Control Systems Are Becoming a Serious Threat to Safety: America Could Learn a Few Things from Canada.” This article reviewed the global trend of countries corporatizing their ATC systems, making them self-supporting from service charges, like other utilities (and also having access to the bond market for major modernization projects). The article repeatedly contrasted the modernizations already implemented by nonprofit corporation Nav Canada with FAA’s slow and painful progress under the rubric of NextGen.

In the third week of August, Airport News featured an article by former editor Joseph Alba, “Why Is the Leading Technological Country in the World Unable to Install a National Air Traffic Control System?” It covered much the same ground as the first two, but was addressed to a more aviation-knowledgeable audience. After discussing the success of Nav Canada in delivering electronic flight strips, controller-pilot datalink, and (soon to come) global ADS-B services via Aireon, he noted the support of the controllers’ union for a corporatized system, adding that “Moving the operation to a corporation that would draw the revenue from user fees would free it from dependence on the instabilities of Congress.”

Finally, Aviation Daily reported, during the last week of August, the presentation by NATCA President Paul Rinaldi at the Air Line Pilots Association Air Safety Forum that week. Rinaldi pointed out that despite FAA having implemented the costly ERAM system at all 20 en-route centers, “We still have to do 2.4 million manual handoffs a year with Canada”—essentially a phone call, whereas Nav Canada has the technology to do automated digital handoffs. “They’re just waiting on us,” Rinaldi said. He also said he finds it “kind of mind-boggling” that, unlike Nav Canada and numerous other ANSPs, the FAA is neither investing in nor subscribing to the forthcoming global space-based ADS-B service being offered by Aireon. “We need to assure a dedicated funding stream” for ATC, he told the ALPA attendees. “When you look at what most of the other civilized countries have done, they have pulled out the [ATC organization from government control] and they’re thriving. . . . If we stay in status quo, we’re going to struggle in the future.”

Here are a few brief notes to amplify what these people have conveyed.

  • Aviation Week reported in mid-August that FAA has finally selected a contractor for the Terminal Flight Data Manager (TDFM) system that will bring electronic flight strips to all its ATC facilities. How soon? Well, the contract is 12 years long.
  • Professional Pilot‘s August issue included an article on FAA’s progress with controller-pilot data link. Installation is under way on a single function—pre-departure clearance—at up to 35 airport towers by the end of 2016, with installations at other airports stretched out over many years. A chart in the article shows that initial en-route data link functions will begin to be implemented in 2019, but full en-route services won’t start implementation until 2022.
  • Aviation Week also pointed out, helpfully, that “congressionally imposed budget caps will return in 2018,” unless Congress takes action to prevent the continuation of the long-term budget sequester.

Can anybody still maintain, with a straight face, that the U.S. ATC status quo is acceptable?

» return to top

GAO’s Report on ATC Transition Issues

Earlier this year the ranking Democrats on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and its Aviation Subcommittee—Rep. Peter DeFazio (D, OR) and Rick Larsen (D, OR)—requested the Government Accountability Office to review “potential air traffic control restructuring issues.” GAO’s relatively brief report (GAO-16-386R) does a pretty good job of identifying and discussing the principal topics that must be addressed in serious restructuring, such as taking the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) out of FAA and setting it up as a self-supporting air navigation service provider (ANSP), as nearly all other developed countries have done. This is especially true of the discussions on asset valuation and on human capital and employee transitions.

There are portions of other sections that would benefit from additional information, or a somewhat different emphasis. For example, the discussion of FAA’s budget is somewhat misleading. A statement in the text on p. 3 says that the percentage of FAA’s Operations budget (85% of which is ATO operations) coming from user taxes (the Aviation Trust Fund) has averaged 60% over the years, with the balance coming from the general fund. This wrongly implies that a general-fund subsidy might be needed if the ATO were made separate. In fact, when I created a hypothetical self-funded ATO budget using numbers from the FY 2016 FAA budget, it looks like this:

:

ATO operations  $7.5033 billion
NextGen operations/planning      .0601
Finance & management      .7605
ATC facilities & equipment    1.8322
F&E mission support          .2257
F&E personnel & related      .4700
Total Independent ATO  $11.3927 billion

The remaining FAA includes all safety regulation, research & development, miscellaneous functions such as commercial space transportation, etc., totaling $1.538 billion. Finally, the Airport Improvement Program, also funded by the Trust Fund, is $3.350 billion. On the revenue side, user taxes from the Trust Fund totaled $14.293 billion, and the general fund provided $1.9877 billion (12.2% of the total FAA budget). Therefore, if $11.4 billion of current user taxes were replaced by new ATC fees and charges, the independent ATO would be fully funded at its current level. That would leave nearly enough in residual aviation user taxes to fund AIP at its current level. And the $1.5 billion in general fund revenue would more than cover FAA’s regulatory and miscellaneous functions. None of this context is explained in the GAO report.

The report’s discussion of fixed versus variable costs (p. 4) is presented as if it were something new and unique to air traffic control, but exactly the same issues are faced in other public utilities (electricity, telecommunications, railroads), and solutions such as Ramsey pricing have long since been adopted to ensure that user revenues are sufficient to fully fund capital and operating costs. This discussion should have provided that context.

In discussing ATC user fees (p. 5), the report blandly states that “non-commercial GA flights often use minimal ATC services and it may be difficult to track their use.” This would be a good place to explain how Nav Canada has dealt with this, by charging piston GA planes a very modest annual registration fee rather than any transaction-based charges. But the term “non-commercial GA flights” also includes corporate jets, which use all the same ATC services as commercial airliners—and this point is ignored in the draft’s discussion.

The section on mitigating economic and financial risks notes the one-time steps taken by NATS in the UK to cope with the post-9/11 downturn in air traffic and revenue, but ignores the far more important ongoing solution adopted by Nav Canada: a reserve fund, in which money is set aside to use during such downturns to prevent having to impose a rate increase at the very time when customers themselves have lower revenues.

Bizarrely, given that the whole point of serious ATC restructuring is to de-politicize the ATC system and change its culture (as later discussed on pp. 9-10), a sentence on page 9 asks “whether the new entity’s employees would be considered federal government employees.” If an ATC reform ends up answering that question in the affirmative, the reform will be doomed to failure.

» return to top

Aireon Close to First Launch for Space-Based ADS-B

I have written a number of times about the game-changing nature of space-based ADS-B surveillance. It will make possible radar-like separation over the vast majority of the globe where there is either no radar coverage at all (oceans, polar regions), or inadequate coverage over large swathes of mountains and open country, especially in developing countries. The result will be a global leap forward in safer and more efficient air travel.

One of the most exciting examples is in southern Africa. Aireon has signed a Regional Commercialization Agreement with the ANSP of South Africa, ATNS. That ANSP, in turn, is part of a 15-country agreement to work together on air traffic control. Once the Aireon system is fully functional, in 2018, it will interface with the VSAT (very small aperture terminal) ground stations operated by ATNS to assist the ANSPs of the other 14 countries. This will bring radar-like surveillance data to the airspace of all 15 countries in southern Africa, where the current level of ATC services varies considerably.

Last month Aireon announced that the first launch, of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites including the ADS-B payload, would take place in late September, from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast. The launch provider is SpaceX, and the launch vehicle is its Falcon 9. Alas, the loss of a Falcon 9 on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Sept. 1st may lead to a postponement of the launch from Vandenberg. As of Sept. 7th, Aireon tells me that they and Iridium are awaiting further word from Space X on whether there will be a launch delay. The 10-satellite payload has been mated to the dispenser, and the Falcon 9 is on the launch pad.

The Wall Street Journal had an informative article on Iridium’s replacement of its aging constellation with 81 Iridium NEXT satellites. The article noted that “FAA and industry officials are conducting a cost-benefit analysis” so that the agency can make a decision about signing up for Aireon’s services. And reporter Andy Pasztor wrote that FAA’s decision is expected sometime next year.

While we’re awaiting these launches, let me recommend an outstanding read for those of you like me who are aviation/aerospace buffs. It’s John Bloom’s Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story, released this spring. It tells the inspiring story of a band of Motorola engineers coming up with the concept for a massive low-earth-orbit constellation of communications satellites, the subsequent development and launch of the network, and the failure of market demand to materialize at the prices Motorola had to charge given the huge development costs. Bloom then goes on to chronicle the amazing story of how former airline executive Dan Colussy struggled for a number of years to acquire the company out of bankruptcy, against the opposition of Motorola which sought to de-orbit all the satellites. The book has been on Amazon’s top-20 business books list, and has received excellent reviews in media such as The Economist and The Wall Street Journal. Highly recommended.

» return to top

GAO Finds Trust Fund Shorted of $1-2 Billion Over Past Decade

The Aviation Trust Fund received between $1 billion and $2 billion less than aircraft purchasers of turbine fuel paid in fuel taxes from 2006 through 2015, according to an audit report from the Government Accountability Office released last month (GAO-16-746R). That finding helps explain the disparity between what business jet groups like NBAA claim their sector is paying and what FAA cost accounting shows as their contribution to the Trust Fund.

The problem came about because Congress sought to stop reported fraud in the early 2000s, after a 2001 study by KPMG found that more jet fuel was being produced than was apparently being consumer by owner/operators of turbine business aircraft. There were indications that jet fuel was being sold to diesel truck operators, because the tax on jet fuel was much lower than the tax on diesel fuel. In 2006, Congress changed the location where jet fuel was taxed and equalized the tax rates between the two fuels. However, because it wanted to retain a slightly lower tax rate for non-commercial jet fuel ($0.219/gal., rather than $0.244/gal.), Congress directed that dealers selling noncommercial jet fuel charge the $0.244 tax but apply for a refund of the difference. It also directed that the proceeds from the jet fuel tax be initially deposited into the Highway Trust Fund, with the Treasury to subsequently transfer the tax money to the Aviation Trust fund after evidence that it was legitimately being used as jet fuel. (Only Congress could concoct such a scheme!)

GAO found that following these changes, diversion of jet fuel to trucking virtually ceased. But it also found that many vendors of jet fuel did not bother to fill out the paperwork to reclaim the difference between the two tax rates. Therefore, the Highway Trust Fund over the 10-year period ended up with between $1 billion and $2 billion more than it was entitled to—and of course the Aviation Trust Fund was deprived of the same amount. (The disparity in amounts is due to differences between IRS data and FAA data, which itself should be a cause for worry.)

GAO did not address what difference this may have made in the amount that operators of business and general-aviation turbine aircraft paid into the Aviation Trust Fund during this period. I recall attending a Business Roundtable briefing in October 2014 at which GRA, Inc. presented detailed FAA data on the cost of various ATC services, the use of those services by various categories of aircraft operators, and the amount of aviation user tax revenue generated by each category. One of the surprising findings of that briefing was that non-commercial turbine fuel users (mostly business jets) paid only $64 million in jet fuel taxes in FY 2013. What happens if we recalculate that share, using what GAO learned about some of those payments never making it into the Aviation Trust Fund?

Using FY 2013 as a starting point, and taking the mid-point of GAO’s estimates, the average annual shortfall from that segment of aviation would be $150 million ($1.5 billion divided by 10 years). Adding that to the reported $64 million yields $214 million, a much larger contribution. That amounts to 1.6% of total Trust Fund receipts for that year, rather than the measly 0.5% in the GRA briefing.

That’s not the end of the story. The GRA briefing also used data from FAA’s ETMS flight activity reports to determine what fraction of flight activity (and hence ATC workload) was represented by each segment of aviation. General aviation turbine represented 11% of ETMS flights in FY 2013. That’s nearly seven times its (corrected) share of payments into the Trust Fund.

» return to top

Some Progress on FAA Controller Recruitment

For several years I’ve been reporting on the FAA’s bizarre use of a Biographical Assessment to screen all applicants for controller positions. No matter how much ATC-related education, or past military ATC experience applicants had, if they failed to pass the BA (for undisclosed reasons), they were simply out of contention.

A bipartisan group of Members of Congress took up the case of these frozen-out applicants, and their efforts paid off, at least in part, in the FAA reauthorization bill enacted in July. First, the bill requires a permanent increase in the maximum age for new hires—from 30 before to 35 now. Second, it requires FAA to recruit 50% of new hires from those with ATC-related education or experience (i.e., former military or contract tower controllers and Collegiate Training Initiative graduates)—and exempts all of them from having to take and pass the BA. Unfortunately, the other 50% will be off-the-street candidates who must “pass” the BA in order to proceed further.

This compromise has not deflected an ongoing lawsuit by the Mountain States Legal Foundation arguing that use of the BA amounts to an effort to use race as a factor in selection. The class action lawsuit is representing CTI graduates who received high scores on the then-current FAA ATSAT (Air Traffic Selection and Training) exam, but were not considered, due to failing to pass the BA.

But there is one more piece of good news. Last month FAA announced the winner for a five-year contract to replace ATSAT with a better qualification/screening test. The winner is SureSelect, developed by the training subsidiary of Airways New Zealand and used in its various global ATC training service activities. This is the first time that FAA has chosen a test developed by a successful ANSP and used worldwide. As part of its competitive selection process, FAA carried out a validation study, and the results showed that those who performed well on SureSelect also perform well on controlling air traffic. This looks like a smart move on FAA’s part.

» return to top

Keep the FAA’s Head in the Clouds: Why the Agency Should Not Be Regulating Space

Guest article by Rand Simberg, adjunct fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

We are on the cusp of a new era in commercial spaceflight, more ambitious than anything that has come before. There have been commercial communications satellites for decades, but now we are seeing a profusion of plans for commercial remote sensing, satellite Internet, and even — with a recent announcement of the planned launch oforbital habitats in 2020 by Bigelow Aerospace—commercial lodging. But at this critical early moment, as these new space businesses are designing, building, and scheduling—and as they are seeking investors and customers—they now face a worrisome problem: regulatory uncertainty.

Why does this new industry need regulation at all? For one thing, there is growing recognition in Washington of the need to regulate new commercial orbital activity in accordance with our national obligations under Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, which holds our government responsible for the country’s activities in space, “whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities.” In addition, much of the new commercial activity will occur in low Earth orbit, and will dramatically increase the number of objects there — meaning that there will be a higher possibility of collisions and a greater need for “space traffic control,” a task today managed by the Joint Space Operations Center of the U.S. Air Force. If civilian firms start venturing into space, it will no longer be appropriate for the Air Force to handle this task by itself, and there are hints that the Air Force would like to hand off the role to another entity. It appears likely that this responsibility will be transferred to some other governmental agency. But which one?

The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST) might at first seem like a good fit for the job. After all, OCST has been licensing American space launches for decades, and the FAA has maintained air traffic control in the United States for much longer than that. Accordingly, it might appear natural simply to extend its role from regulating flight in the atmosphere to regulating flight in the vacuum of space.

But it’s not that simple. Space traffic control is not exactly analogous to air traffic control over sovereign territory, and the FAA is poorly suited for the challenges of regulating this new industry. Indeed, the agency’s present involvement in licensing space launches is just an accident of history. In the early 1980s, as now, the commercial space-launch industry faced worrisome regulatory uncertainty — a problem solved with the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act in 1984, which assigned the Department of Transportation responsibility for both regulating and promoting the industry. A new office within the department — OCST — was created to do this work. But in 1993, OCST was demoted. As part of Vice President Al Gore’s “streamlining government” initiative, it was folded into  FAA purely by executive action, and its head was made a civil-service position rather than a politically appointed one.

This 1993 decision should be reversed, and OCST should be detached from FAA, reporting instead directly to the Secretary of Transportation again. Doing so would elevate the importance of the office and therefore of commercial space, and give it more clout in annual budget battles. In addition, doing so would resolve a fundamental culture clash between FAA and OCST. As mentioned above, OCST is charged with both regulating and promoting the space-launch industry. But FAA sees itself strictly as a regulatory agency; its former role of promoting the airline industry was removed by Congress in the 1990s. Restoring OCST to its original location in DOT would help ensure that its industry-promoting work is not hampered by the FAA’s current safety-first approach.

In Congress, the American Space Renaissance Act would take important first steps toward fixing some of these problems. Its sponsor, Rep. James Bridenstine (R, OK), deserves praise for helping to start a public conversation about the kinds of reforms the moment calls for. The bill would once again make the head of OCST a political appointee, elevated to the rank of assistant secretary. And it would prohibit the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization from performing space traffic control. But the bill does not go far enough: it does not separate OCST from the FAA. In debating the bill, Congress should restore  OCST’s independence of FAA. (This could also be done by an executive order, since the merger of OCST and FAA was originally an executive action.)

Yet even that would be only a partial measure. OCST regulates only launch and entry, but there are many other activities that the new space businesses are planning to engage in — activities in space that will not have anything to do with transportation per se. Future businesses may wish to undertake activities that aren’t even anticipated today. Extending the regulatory reach of OCST to include all these activities is not as simple as it might seem. For example, should OCST — or any part of DOT — be involved in overseeing alcohol or other intoxicant use on U.S. registered space vessels? What about gambling? What about firearms? And what is a U.S. registered vessel in this context? Who would register it?

It is also hard to imagine any part of DOT playing a productive role in space traffic control (including space situational awareness) in the statutory equivalent of international waters. Neither OCST nor any other part of DOT should be entrusted to take over this responsibility from the Air Force: not only does the department lack the necessary expertise and equipment, but extending OCST’s writ in this manner could dilute its ability to continue to carry out its critical launch-licensing functions.

A better regulatory approach would involve creating a new agency — one that can be both a uniformed service entrusted with high-level classified information and an agency relied on to carry out regulatory tasks in a user-friendly, transparent setting. Fortunately, we have such a model: the U.S. Coast Guard. As James C. Bennett argued in The New Atlantis in 2011, a new U.S. Space Guard would be well suited to handle the diverse range of technical, regulatory, constabulary, and operational tasks up to and including space rescue, required as our nation moves seriously into space. Such an entity, with its own service academy, would also be more trusted to interact with related agencies of other nations (as the Coast Guard does) than either the Air Force or the FAA.

Creating a new agency to help regulate a major new field of human endeavor may seem an insurmountable challenge for our political system, which nowadays has trouble passing even routine legislation, and which seems capable of acting swiftly only in an emergency. But creating the Space Guard is, as Bennett argues, a practical, modest, and fiscally prudent solution to problems that will soon be on our doorstep, as part of a broader effort to retool our antiquated Cold War space policy for the 21st century. The entrepreneurs and business leaders now working to create a future in space should encourage our policymakers to give this idea serious consideration.

A slightly longer version of this article appeared in the June 2015 issue of The New Atlantis, and is reprinted here with their permission.

» return to top

Upcoming Aviation Events

Note: I do not have the space to list all aviation events that might be of interest to readers of this newsletter. Listed here are only those at which a Reason Foundation transportation researcher is speaking or moderating.

Transportation Research Forum, DC Chapter, Oct. 19, 2016, venue TBA, Washington, DC (Robert Poole speaking). Details at: http://www.trforum.org/chapters/washington.

» return to top

News Notes

The Military and an ATC Corporation? No Big Deal. Over the summer, Sen. Bill Nelson (R, FL) argued that the Defense Department would never go for a plan to corporatize the U.S ATC system. In a piece posted on the Reason Foundation website, I explained why civil-military cooperation and coordination, as exists in scores of countries with corporatized ANSPs, was likely to be the pattern in the United States as well. My supposition was confirmed by a well-informed Pentagon source who pointed out that it might well make sense for DoD to be represented on the ATC corporation’s stakeholder board. (http://reason.org/blog/show/the-military-and-atc-corporation-no)

Why Non-Aviation Users Need GPS Backup. The aviation community, while recognizing the critical need for a reliable back-up system for GPS and its counterparts, is too often narrowly focused on solutions just for air navigation. An excellent article in The Atlantic by Dan Glass explains, in lay-person language, the numerous threats to GPS availability and the myriad user communities that rely on position, navigation, and timing signals provided by GPS—including nearly all financial transactions, telecommunications, seismic monitoring, truck routing, precision agriculture, etc. The piece makes a good case for a high-priority federal effort to implement at least an interim GPS backup capability in the near term. (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/what-happens-if-GPS-fails/486824)

Argentina Separates Air Safety Regulation from ATC Provision. Last month Argentina’s new reformist government separated air traffic provider EANA from the country’s Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC). The latter was created only in 2007; prior to that, the military ran air traffic control in Argentina. Under the new arrangement, ANAC will regulate the safety of ATC operations at arm’s length from the new ANSP, as is done in most developed countries. EANA announced that it will invest $121 million in infrastructure and advanced technology, according to an Aug. 10th report by Air Traffic Management. Controllers at two large airports took part in a strike in early July to protest short staffing.

Italian Government Divests 49% of ENAV. The Italian Ministry of Economy and Finances sold 49% of ENAV, the Italian ANSP, on the Milan Stock Exchange late in July. Bids came from 31 Qualified Investors in Italy and 167 multinational investors from elsewhere. Total demand was for eight times as many shares as were offered. Based on the price paid during the initial public offering, ENAV was valued at approximately $2 billion.

Nav Canada Board Approves Rate Decrease. On July 14th, the board of directors of Nav Canada formally approved the previously announced decrease in ATC user charges, averaging 7.6% across all users. The company estimates that the reduced rates will save its customers $77 million per year. The rates went into effect at the start of Nav Canada’s new fiscal year, September 1st.

Belfast City Airport Contracts Out Its Control Tower Services. Airports in the United Kingdom are responsible for their own control towers, which they may either operate themselves (in accordance with national government safety regulations) or outsource to qualified control tower companies. Until this year, Belfast City Airport had self-provided tower services, but this year decided to outsource the function. Competing bids were submitted by Sweden’s ANSP, LFV, and a division of U.K. ANSP, NATS. The latter was announced as the winner in mid-July. All current tower staff were transferred to NATS as part of the contract.

Free Route Airspace Expanding in Northern Europe. The Borealis Alliance of nine northern European ANSPs plans to introduce Free Route Airspace (FRA) across their entire land and oceanic airspace by 2021, and recently received a $71 million grant from the European Union to assist with the transition. In some of the world’s most complex and congested airspace, flights will be able to take shorter and more direct flight paths, saving time and fuel. The plan will permit FRA from the Baltic nations on the east, across the U.K. and Ireland, and extending to the eastern edge of Greenland.

Myanmar Signs MOA with Aireon for Space-Based ADS-B. Aireon announced in July that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to explore the benefits and costs of subscribing to Aireon’s space-based ADS-B services. DCA’s Yangon Flight Information region includes all of Myanmar’s domestic airspace plus oceanic airspace. Singapore’s ANSP has already signed a service contract with Aireon, and India’s ANSP also has an MOA with the company.

Airways NZ Teams with Aviation Australia on Controller Training. The ANSP of New Zealand, Airways New Zealand, has announced an agreement to work with Aviation Australia, that country’s largest aviation training provider. The two will develop and operate a new controller training academy in Brisbane. Airways will implement its ab-initio ATC training curriculum at the new facility. The company has other joint ventures for controller training in China, Dubai, and Puerto Rico.

Philippines’ First RNP Procedures Donated by U.S. Companies. Honeywell and Hughes Aerospace have developed RNP arrival and departure procedures at Tacloban Airport, whose terminal and instrument landing systems were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The companies donated the project, presumably to demonstrate the benefits that such procedures could offer to many other airports in this far-flung island nation. Aviation Daily (Aug. 3, 2016) noted that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines “will likely target four or five other airports” for such improvements.

NextGen for Airports. The Transportation Research Board recently published “Understanding the Airport’s role in Performance-Based Navigation,” denoted as Volume 1 in a series on NextGen for Airports. The report was developed as part of the Airport Cooperative Research Program and is obtainable via the TRB website as ACRP Report 150.

» return to top

Quotable Quotes

“In the mid-’80s, when I was at DOT and was the deputy secretary to Elizabeth Dole, we spent a couple of years convincing Congress that we should take National and Dulles airports, which at that time were departments of the FAA, and transfer them to a [new] regional authority. Congress at first was very reluctant to give up control of the DC airports, but the singular argument that convinced them was that those airports could then go the bond markets. If we hadn’t been successful in convincing Congress of that, Dulles’ main terminal would be half the size it is today, and Reagan National would still have as its main terminal what is now the A concourse, the oldest part of the facility.”
—Interview, “Former Transportation Secretary James Burnley on FAA Reauthorization,” Business Travel News, Aug. 15, 2016

“Fits and starts in budgeting for modernizing air traffic control have resulted in technology that’s outdated by the time it gets implemented. Our government has proven time and again that it can’t plan for long-term capital improvements, and the result is a system that can’t keep pace with the speed of technology. While our planes offer broadband Internet and live TV, they are guided by air traffic controllers using a system that dates back to the middle of last century. It makes no sense.”
—Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, “Antiquated Air Traffic Control Hurts New York Economy,” Crain’s New York Business, Aug. 18, 2016

“Regardless of political considerations, ATC reform is essential for the future of our aviation system. Without it, we will sputter from piecemeal reform to piecemeal reform and achieve little. Only transformational reform—be it a nonprofit system or another innovative model—will allow the U.S. to efficiently and effectively deploy NextGen and reap the benefits of a modern ATC system. Canada has proven it can be done, and after 20 years they are a leader in innovation, efficiency, and safety. They have also just announced a 7.9 percent decrease in user fees, which means their user fees are now lower, in real terms, than when they were first enacted in 1999.”
—Rui Neiva, Eno Center for Transportation, “Time for an ATC Transformation?” Politico, July 25, 2016

“From a cost perspective, you’ll experience roughly similar costs of operation as in the U.S., although fuel costs are slightly higher and navigation fees are applicable to all movements within Canadian airspace. ‘Costs for operating in Canada are not too dissimilar from the U.S.,’ says Jeppeson Technical Sales and Support Mgr. Nancy Pierce.”
—Grant McLaren, “Flying Bizav Aircraft into Canada,” Professional Pilot, July 2016

“A few examples: the way the music industry matured away from physical formats; the speed with which telecommunications migrated from landline to digital; the readiness with which even former monopolistic power companies embraced competition and finally discovered customer service. All these industries recognized the value of using assets effectively, not just the cost of owning them. And yet many in our [ATC] industry cling to a belief that it could not happen here. By waving our safety—and essential service—flags, we tell ourselves that our ‘natural monopoly’ would be too dangerous to challenge. We can also find ourselves believing that flight information region boundaries are actual lines, or that control zones are set in something more substantial than vapor. The new entrants to our industry—unmanned aerial vehicles, high altitude balloons, satellites, rockets—do not operate to the same parameters, and are radically challenging our right as an industry to hide behind them.”
—Ed Sims, CEO of Airways New Zealand, “CANSO Chair Interview: Transformation Through Collaboration,” Airspace, Quarter 3 2016

» return to top

Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation. Poole, an MIT-trained engineer, has advised the Ronald Reagan, the George H.W. Bush, the Clinton, and the George W. Bush administrations.