- St. Louis mayor cancels airport P3 lease
- U.S. getting further behind on remote towers
- RAND report suggests airport funding reforms
- FAA Metroplex still dealing with problems
- Fresh thinking on airport slots in Europe
- Consensus emerging on airline/space-launch conflicts
- News notes
- Quotable quotes
After three years of discussion, studies, and a request for qualifications that attracted submissions from 18 teams, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that the city’s airport “privatization” effort (of which she had been a prime mover) is dead. Interestingly, her action came just one day after the board of the St. Louis County Port Authority (which operates no ports, but oversees casino gambling spending) voted 4-3 to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a study on “whether privatizing is in the best interest of the region.” A motion on the RFP had been tabled a month before on 4-3 vote, but one member changed her vote in December.
St. Louis media is filling in the background story. Jacob Barker of STLtoday.com reported that various movers and shakers had been working for some time on the idea that Lambert is a regional resource that should not be controlled by a single city. One of the leading figures in this effort has been Terry Briggs, mayor of Bridgeton, a suburb that lost a large chunk of land to Lambert for a new runway 15 years ago. He has pitched the idea to fellow mayors of cities in the region. These efforts have included discussions of how to raise the revenue to “buy” the airport and pay off its outstanding bonds.
Jacob Kirn of the St. Louis Business Journal identified a trio of business leaders who apparently worked to persuade Mayor Krewson to abandon the airport lease project. Warner Baxter, the chairman of Civic Progress, was reportedly the primary business leader telephoning and meeting with the mayor. Tom Santel, the group’s executive director, told Kirn that Civic Progress had raised concerns about the lease since 2018, when he became its leader.
The County Port Authority “study” is part of a concerted effort to take the airport away from the city of St. Louis. Dissenting board member Mike Hajna told Barker that the RFP for the study asks the winning consultant to make “recommendations for regional governance implementation,” and commented that, “This [will not be] an unbiased report. This is asking how do we go about a regional takeover.”
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who has discussed regionalization with his counterparts in St. Louis County and Jefferson County, understands that the airport is a valuable asset. “The only problem of it is what is the value of the airport. Any attempt to do something like this, that’s going to be the sticking point. . . . Nobody would suggest the city shouldn’t get a decent return on the money they invested,” he said.
The prospect of raising perhaps a billion dollars from a long-term lease of Lambert was a key point in getting former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to propose the idea in 2017, and this remained a key theme of current Mayor Krewson. There is a global market for long-term public-private partnership (P3) airport leases. In recent years, investors have paid between 10 and 20 times an airport’s earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). With a multiple of 14 times, Lambert would appear to have a gross value (prior to debt payoff) of $1.2 billion. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change, which explains why local groups such as the NAACP and the carpenters’ union have called on Mayor Krewson to reverse her decision.
Nobody can “buy” an airport under current U.S. law. In situations where an airport is transferred from city ownership to an airport authority, state legislation has been required, and that is what would likely be done in the case of Lambert if City Progress and others succeed. But that would not involve the city of St. Louis getting anything like the market value of the airport.
The sudden termination of a process that was well along sent shockwaves through the array of potential bidders, as well as the airlines serving the airport. There had just been four days of presentations by the 18 bidders, and attendees (including the airlines) were “incredibly impressed with the quality of the bidders,” according to a knowledgeable observer who was there. On one hand, this debacle will reinforce those who are skeptical that there will ever be a serious U.S. airport P3 market. On the other hand, the fact that 18 very well-qualified teams were seriously interested—and made presentations that impressed the critically-important airlines—suggests that when a metro area with a wiser business community embarks on improving its airport via a long-term P3 lease, investors may take them seriously.
In the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill, Congress authorized FAA to implement a six-airport remote tower pilot program. The first two were the projects already underway, with state and private support, at the airports in Leesburg, VA, and Loveland, CO. Two others would be for airports in the Federal Contract Tower Program (potentially airports with aging conventional towers needing to be replaced), another would be a non-primary airport, and the sixth would be selected by the FAA administrator.
That sounds like a lot of progress, but remember: this is the federal government. Congress has not yet appropriated any funding for the pilot program and the Leesburg and Loveland projects, which many had expected would go operational last year, must still pass an array of FAA safety-review hurdles.
In the aviation safety climate post-737MAX, FAA is now in hyper-cautious mode, apparently ignoring the certification and operational status of a growing number of remote tower projects in Europe. Aviation Daily reported last September that FAA has created eight “safety management system” (SMS) panels to review the Leesburg and Loveland projects at various stages. For example, the Leesburg project required an SMS review for changing the curvature of the display screens.
The Northern Colorado Regional Airport (Loveland), which is currently a non-towered airport, is scheduled to begin testing the new Searidge Technologies remote tower system in April. Phase 1 of the FAA testing program will begin with the remote tower operating in passive mode with active air traffic control provided from a mobile control tower. Phase 2 of testing will see the roles of the remote tower and mobile tower reversed: the remote tower system will provide active air traffic control with the mobile serving as a safety backup. Phase 1 is anticipated to last approximately five weeks (two weeks on, one week off, two weeks on). In order to proceed from Phase 1 to Phase 2, a rigorous FAA SMS evaluation will be conducted for review and approval by FAA management. (The mobile tower that will provide active air traffic control during Phase 1 and the safety mitigation function in Phase 2 is provided by Serco, Inc., which is one of three contractors that operate towers in FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program.)
The path to certification of the remote tower at Loveland will involve additional testing phases as determined by the FAA. Nobody could give me a realistic date for certification, but it sounds like it will be at least a year from now. Leesburg, which started sooner, might get to certification sooner, but I’m not placing any bets.
Meanwhile, last month in Sweden, the first new airport in 20 years opened on Dec. 22. It is also the first airport in the world designed to be controlled from a distant remote tower center. The Scandinavian Mountains Airport is the fourth airport controlled by the Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS) remote tower center in Sundsvall. The ANSP of Sweden, LFV, has pioneered remote towers in Europe, and Saab is the remote tower provider for the Leesburg project. Norway’s ANSP Avinor, following LFV’s lead, has developed a remote tower center designed to handle 15 small airports by 2022, with the first remote tower opening last fall in Rost. DFS, the German ANSP, has a remote tower center in operation in Leipzig, which began controlling traffic at Saarbrücken last year and will add two other airports this year and next. Kongsburg, a key player in developing Norway’s remote tower center, has recently deployed a remote tower in Australia, at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Amberley. Several remote tower projects are underway in the U.K., including one for London City Airport.
Remote towers have been certified and are operational in a growing number of countries. Why FAA is treating them with hyper-caution—as if this growing body of knowledge, expertise, and practice does not exist—remains a mystery.
The new report from RAND Corporation, “U.S. Airport Infrastructure Funding and Financing” has drawn attention mostly for its recommendation of an increase in airport passenger facility charges (PFCs). But the report, called for by Congress in the 2018 FAA reauthorization legislation, contains an array of worthwhile, well-justified recommendations. In fact, because the report is written to be understood by a non-aviation audience, I would recommend it as a primer on airport funding.
To begin with, it speaks the truth about PFCs that is generally obscured by airline critiques of this important airport self-help program. In particular, it states clearly that “airlines cannot veto FAA-approved PFC-funded projects.” And that means that “PFC projects provide airports with a means of accommodating new entrants without a veto by legacy carriers.” As I point out in a piece in the current issue of Regulation magazine, PFCs have been critically important to the airport terminal expansion that has enabled the rapid growth of ultra-low-cost carriers Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. (“Comment: PFCs Promote Competition and Airport Self-Sufficiency, Regulation, Winter 2019-2020)
Another airline claim is that airports are sitting on mountains of cash and can, therefore, fund additional terminal projects without an increase in allowable PFC rates. But Chapter 6 of the RAND report explains that “PFC revenues at all large hub airports but one are fully committed,” just as I expected. Of those 30 large hubs, 18 have committed their PFC revenues until at least 2030, and six have committed PFC revenues until at least 2040. And of the 31 medium hubs, 10 have committed PFC revenues until at least 2030, while 14 will have some new revenues available after 2025. Hence, the increase recommended by RAND—an increase in the federal cap from today’s $4.50 to a new level of $7.50, but only for the originating airport. That’s less than some airports were pushing for, but would still be very valuable.
The report also calls attention to revenue diversion, which it notes is still an issue. When Congress enacted the current Airport Improvement Program of airport grants in 1982 it required airports to use all their revenues for airport purposes. But since a dozen airports had historically sent some revenue downtown for non-airport purposes, Congress “grandfathered” them, letting revenue diversion continue indefinitely. RAND notes that three of the 12 have had this protection removed—and says it is time to remove it from the remaining nine. It notes that a DOT Inspector General report found that between 1995 and 2015, grandfathered airports diverted over $10 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, including $1.2 billion in 2015.
The RAND team also addressed the large and growing unfunded balance in the Aviation Trust Fund. Spending rules are supposed to prevent such accumulations, but Congress ignores them. RAND suggests that beyond maintaining a prudent reserve—a rainy day fund—money paid by aviation users should be spent for aviation infrastructure. And they urge that the 7.5 percent passenger ticket tax be applied to airline ancillary fees for baggage, meals, etc. which used to be included in the airfare and hence were taxed. Rather than making this a net tax increase, they suggest working with the airlines to make the taxation of ancillary fees revenue-neutral.
A high priority for FAA’s NextGen program has been to untangle the airspace in America’s largest metro areas. The basic idea was to use performance-based navigation (PBN) to provide more precise and standardized arrival and departure routes for each of the metro area’s airports. The agency identified 12 such areas for its Metroplex program, some with multiple air carrier airports, as well as reliever airports for business aircraft. Only the New York metro area—with the most complex and convoluted airspace—was left for a future project, presumably based on lessons learned from the easier cases.
These projects have had, at best, a mixed reaction from the metro areas in question. Community groups and local media, never using the Metroplex program name, defined what was happening as simply “NextGen,” and many of them didn’t like it. The principal cause of distress was increased noise beneath the new approach and departure paths, which instead of being widely spread out were now much more tightly grouped. That was by design, taking advantage of PBN to shorten the average track, saving time and fuel, but also reducing the number of square miles experiencing a given level of aircraft noise. But the concomitant result was significantly increased noise beneath the concentrated flight tracks. Seven of the 12 projects are defined as completed—Houston, North Texas (DFW), Southern California, Northern California, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington, DC. Despite being “completed,” there are still major noise complaints and actual or threatened litigation in Southern California (BUR), Northern California, and Washington (DCA and BWI).
Last August the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the Metroplex program (AV2019062). Its verdict was mixed, noting that the schedule for completing the remaining metro areas is not promising. While the original completion date was 2017, FAA’s latest target date is 2021. One of the original 12—Phoenix—has been canceled after litigation. And of course, New York is not in any current plan, despite being the direct source of 40 percent of US delay hours (just from its four busiest airports). In response to the noise concerns from the completed projects, FAA has lengthened the schedules for the remaining ones, to build in more community outreach time. But it has not proposed any kind of new noise compensation (a subject the OIG report does not mention).
Besides the noted implementation delays, the OIG report also finds that the benefits are only about half of what FAA had projected. Specifically, for the seven completed sites, FAA now estimates annual benefits of just $31 million, which is 49.5 percent less than the minimum previously projected. Only one site, Charlotte (CLT), has benefits slightly more than projected. CLT was the only one with significant fuel savings, which might have been due to greater use of westbound departures (with more favorable winds). At the other sites, actual time and distance flown were often greater than projected. And at the Northern California site, Metroplex benefits were actually negative. The report also points out that FAA’s benefit projections depend significantly on the judgment of subject matter experts rather than on hard data.
The OIG researchers identified some of the technical reasons for less-than-expected benefits. For example, effective use of PBN tools depends on improved technology for controllers, such as Time-Based Flow Management (TBFM) in Centers and Terminal-Area Sequencing and Spacing (TSAS) at TRACONs. TBFM is not being used regularly due in part to many aircraft not being equipped to use it, as well as controllers in adjacent facilities still using “miles-in-trail” separation instead. And TSAS is behind schedule for implementation with only nine facilities expected to have it in operation by 2022. As shown by the very limited use of TBFM, inadequate controller training and poor management (not mentioned in the report) seem to be the causes. In addition, with a significant fraction of the commercial fleet not equipped for PBN (let alone RNP), controllers are not comfortable using PBN with mixed fleets. Some other ANSPs, in certain airspaces (e.g., the North Atlantic tracks), follow the principle of best-equipped/best-served (BEBS), under which aircraft equipped for advanced procedures get priority access, which is an incentive for laggards to upgrade their planes. Lack of equipage is especially a problem with regional airlines, only 30 percent of whose aircraft can fly advanced procedures. This segment would seem to be a good candidate for a BEBS policy.
In the November 2019 issue of this newsletter, I discussed conflicting views over how the huge increase in capacity to be brought about by the forthcoming new runway at London Heathrow will be allocated to airport users. I noted that with Brexit about to happen, the U.K. will no longer be constrained by out-of-date European Union (EU) slot allocation rules, which fail to take into account airline deregulation in Europe, the rise of low-cost carriers, privatization of most state-owned airlines, and corporatization/privatization of airports.
I’m pleased to report that similar discussions are also underway in Europe. Last fall, the Florence School of Regulation held a conference on “a more efficient airport slots allocation regime in Europe.” This month Airports Council International-Europe issued a position paper, “Airport Slot Allocation.” Both discuss market-based measures as a possible supplement to or replacement of a slot allocation system that has failed to keep pace with several decades of change in European aviation.
The current system is based on each airport having a slot coordinator, following a detailed set of rules. The most important of them are (1) permanent grandfathering of slots for carriers that were serving the airport when the EU regulation was adopted in 1993, and (2) a use-it-or-lose-it rule that requires a carrier to use its slots at least 80 percent of the time. Airlines know how to game this system, and a major drawback is that it severely limits competition from new entrants, especially at airports that are now or soon will be operating at capacity.
The majority of the proposals discussed at the Florence conference dealt with reforming the rules and procedures used by slot coordinators, such as changing use-it-or-lose-it to 90 percent and strengthening existing preferences given to new entrants when slots become available. Some participants pointed out that during EU slot reform discussions a decade ago (which led to no changes), an analysis “showed that the slot allocation system prevented optimal use of scarce capacity,” a point many economists have made. And most of the discussion about the possible use of market-based measures to allocate slots focused on slot auctions rather than runway pricing.
Teodora Serafimova of the Florence School made a critically important point in commenting on the conference discussions—“that slots are not homogeneous, as their value varies significantly with time and location.” Variable runway pricing is the best way to take this into account. Senthuran Rudran of the UK Competition & Markets Authority noted that “a pricing solution would lead to greater allocative efficiency than an administrative system.” And he pointed out that “With a pricing solution, the scarcity rents, which are currently being enjoyed by the airlines, would shift away either to the government or airports or both.” And this would help to pay for needed airport capacity expansion. Today, alas, incumbent airlines are often not enthusiasts for runway additions, because they “have an incentive to foreclose or delay airport expansion to protect existing profit margins.”
Given these kinds of discussions, I had high hopes for the ACI-Europe airport slots position paper. Its introduction calls for a paradigm shift in the slot allocation regime, and its discussion of possible reforms notes that as self-supporting businesses, “Airports have a legitimate commercial interest in how their capacity is allocated and utilized.” But the closest the paper gets to pricing is in a discussion of “super-congested airports” where it suggests, tentatively, that in slot allocation “the number of seats per movement does not fall below a specified lower limit” and that perhaps “Allocation of new capacity, or a share thereof, [could be done via] market-based mechanisms.” It also suggests that maybe there could be a slot reservation system, with a monetary incentive. But in the end, it basically recommends regulatory reform of the existing slot-coordinator system.
I won’t repeat here the case I have made elsewhere for the many ways in which runway congestion pricing is far better than any proposed slot-auction system. In particular, the much larger revenue stream from runway congestion pricing could serve as the basis for issuing runway revenue bonds and perhaps airport noise compensation payments to those seriously impacted by a new runway.
Even if the recommendations now being discussed are mostly reformist, rather than calling for a real paradigm shift, it’s good to see market-based mechanisms starting to be part of this discussion.
The historic launch of the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy in February 2018 was a great success for commercial space—but a huge problem for airlines. That launch delayed 563 flights for a total of 4,600 minutes. To be sure, that was a much larger launch vehicle than most, but with the rising projections of space launch activity in the coming years, the need to close airspace during launch and recovery operations is a problem that needs to be solved. On Nov. 1, 2019, the Congressional Research Service issued a two-page briefing paper, “Impact of Commercial Space Launch Activities on Aviation,” which served as a primer for Congress on the subject. Three weeks later the bipartisan leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee sent a letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson expressing their concern about this problem.
As I have reported previously, FAA has been working since 2014 to develop a Space Data Integrator (SDI) that will feed real-time telemetry data from launch vehicles to the FAA’s Traffic Flow Management System. Duane Freer, who manages space operations at the ATC System Command Center in Warrenton, VA says SDI is moving through the acquisition process and told a conference on Oct.31st that he hopes SDI will be operational sometime in 2020.
That was good news to attendees at that historic conference in Washington, DC, co-hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Representatives of both industries are supportive of SDI, but pointed out that it needs to be supplemented by a tool for controllers that figures out, in real-time, how much airspace needs to be closed. That hypothetical tool is called an Aircraft Hazard Area generator. Blue Origin’s Deputy General Counsel Audrey Powers agreed that what pilots and controllers need to know is “the hazard area in real time.” This dynamic hazard-area data would add more value than SDI alone. Concurring in that was the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s Safety Director Jim Ulmann, who mentioned a prototype system called the Hazard Risk Assessment Management (HRAM) system. He told attendees that “SDI is nice; it’s certainly better than what we’ve had in the past, which is next to nothing. But it’s still just an awareness tool. I’m talking about a decision support tool—something that goes on the controller’s scope, something more like an HRAM kind of thing.”
While the ALPA white paper did not mention HRAM, it did make another important recommendation. After pointing out that most or all U.S. orbital launch sites are located on the coast, and that launches, therefore, affect mostly oceanic airspace, ALPA recommends that FAA adopt space-based ADS-B surveillance in oceanic airspace to provide near real-time information on aircraft positions, direction, velocity, etc. as part of managing air travel during space launches. It also suggests that ADS-B be installed on space launch vehicles so that they can also be tracked in real-time in a way that can be fed directly to ATC facilities. Also needed is better communications between controllers and pilots operating in oceanic airspace. Overall, ALPA suggests, with these improvements in place, “it becomes feasible to imagine that an air traffic management capability with full access to real-time information would allow for much more tactical control of the launch operation with surrounding air traffic.” That will be essential as the volume of space launches ramps up significantly in coming years.
FAA Expanding Plans for Space-Based ADS-B
Aviation Daily reported that FAA is developing a one-to-three-year roadmap to expand its use of this “promising technology,” in the words of Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell. Prior to this, FAA had negotiated only a one-year agreement with space-based ADS-B provider Aireon for an operational evaluation of space-based ADS-B surveillance in the Caribbean. That trial will use a modified version of the ERAM system at Miami Center to control traffic between Miami and San Juan. FAA has also developed a modification of the ATOP oceanic automation system used by the New York, Oakland, and Anchorage Centers so that it can integrate space-based ADS-B data feeds.
Further Delay for London Heathrow’s Third Runway
The Civil Aviation Authority has imposed a new “economy and efficiency” condition on Heathrow Airport Ltd. (HAL) as it works on designing its long-awaited third runway. The CAA’s rationale is that the airport has market power, especially since its closest competitor Gatwick has been denied permission to add a new runway. After digesting this news, HAL announced that “the CAA has [therefore] delayed the project timetable by at least 12 months.” Despite Parliament having approved the new runway, HAL must still obtain “planning permission” to actually begin construction.
TSA to Add Two More PreCheck Enrollment Companies
For the first time since PreCheck began, TSA will allow additional contractors to offer enrollment services. Alclear and Telos Identity Management Solutions will join long-time monopoly provider IDEMIA (formerly Morpho Trust) in providing enrollment services. After years of false starts by TSA, in the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill, Congress required TSA to use at least two companies to market PreCheck and vet applicants.
24-Hour Free Route Airspace in Northern Europe
The Maastricht Upper Area Control Center (MUAC) as of December began offering free route airspace on a 24 hours/day basis. MUAC airspace includes Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and northwest Germany—above 24,500 ft. The system includes cross-border free route options with Germany and the Danish-Swedish functional airspace block. In MUAC airspace alone, the estimated daily savings (due to shorter flight tracks) are 40 metric tons of fuel and 150 metric tons of CO2.
Airbus Pilotless Air Taxi Flight Tests Completed
The 8-rotor tilt-wing Vahana pilotless air taxi last month completed 138 test flights at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range in eastern Oregon. The autonomous vehicle is battery powered and the longest distance flown on a single charge was 27 miles. There was no human on board any of the test flights, Airbus reported. The Vahana that flew is one of two prototypes; the other has been displayed at air shows and aviation conferences.
Atlanta Officials Gear Up to Fight Another Takeover Attempt
The leading legislative proponent of setting up a regional airport authority to take over Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from corruption-plagued City of Atlanta—Sen. Burt Jones—is expected to make a second legislative attempt in the 2020 session that began this month. City officials are considering the creation of an inspector general position to address corruption problems. Jones’ bill last year passed the Georgia Senate but failed in the House.
Huge Allegiant Expansion Means More Airline Competition
Allegiant Air has welcomed the new year by announcing 44 new nonstop routes, including its first services to Boston, Chicago (Midway), and Houston (Hobby). Nearly all the new routes from these large cities will serve smaller airports in places such as Asheville, NC, Fargo, ND, Peoria, IL, Allentown, PA, and Grand Rapids, MI. They will give many travelers non-stop alternatives to longer routing through a major airline’s hub airport—and likely at much lower fares.
New Law Portends Better-Qualified Controllers
A little-noticed provision in the 2020 defense authorization bill allows FAA to prioritize hiring air traffic controller candidates from the military and from FAA-certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) colleges. CTI graduates and veterans have a higher retention rate during controller training at the FAA Academy, and the CTI graduates can bypass the first five weeks of that training since it would repeat material they have already mastered. The provision is called the ATC Hiring Reform Act, and it’s long overdue.
CLEAR Adds 35th Airport
The St. Louis Airport Commission has endorsed a contract with CLEAR, the identity verification service that offers an alternative to long screening lines at airports. Its system uses fingerprint and iris scanning to verify that the passenger is the person who applied and was vetted. CLEAR charges members $179 per year. If the proposed contract is approved by the city government, St. Louis Lambert International would be the 35th U.S. airport with this service.
Amazon Expands Air Cargo Contracts
In December, Amazon announced a contract with Sun Country Airlines to operate 10 Boeing 737 cargo jets. The new contract is in addition to larger contracts with Air Transport Services Group and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, both of which fly Boeing 767 cargo jets. Atlas will also add 20 737s to its Amazon fleet this year.
Anti-Drone Technology Gets Airport Testing
TSA announced last month that it will use Miami International Airport as a testbed for various anti-drone technologies. The test site will assess drone detection and mitigation technologies. In Germany, the Transport Ministry announced that Hamburg Airport will be the site of tests to detect, identify, and intercept drones. The German defense system is code-named Falcon. And in London, Heathrow Airport has installed a counter drone system that uses “holographic radar” to detect and track drones and locate their pilots, reports Engadget.
Air Traffic Management 2019 ATC Award Winners
Issue 4 (2019) of Air Traffic Management included an array of winners of awards in various categories. Winner for “virtual center concepts” was a consortium organized by Thales, Frequentis, Indra, Leonardo,10 ANSPs, COOPANS, and Eurocontrol. Irish Aviation Authority won a first place for the Aireon Alert system, which it hosts at its facility in Ballygirreen, Ireland. And Nav Canada took a first place for being the world’s first ANSP to implement the new ICAO standard, “Established on RNP-AR,” which is now operational at Calgary International Airport. Congratulations to all.
Murray Smith, RIP
The founder and long-time publisher of Professional Pilot magazine, Murray Smith, died on Dec. 25, 2019, at age 89. I met Murray in the early 2000s when he attended a presentation I gave at Heritage Foundation on ATC corporatization. That led to invitations from Murray to write columns for Pro Pilot. It also led to a Christmas-season visit by Murray and his wife to my home in Florida. Unfortunately, when AOPA and NBAA created a coalition to fight ATC corporatization in 2016, my access to Pro Pilot was cut off. My condolences to Murray’s wife, Eleni, and his family and colleagues.
“A regulatory regime based on what the air transport market looked like 27 years ago is not only anachronistic; it is limiting the ability of airports to pursue more-sustainable operations, to develop air connectivity for their communities, and to promote airline competition for the benefit of consumers. Indeed, under the current rules, airports have no say in the way in which the very infrastructure they are creating and investing in is being used by the airlines. This needs to change, and the position paper we have published today . . . clearly shows the imperative for reform.”
—Olivier Jankovec, Director, ACI-Europe, in Alan Dron, “ACI Europe Calls for EU Airport Slot Reform,” Aviation Daily, January 17, 2020
“From an economic and regulatory perspective, an administrative mechanism by its very nature will not lead to efficient or effective outcomes. Some of the proposals for evolutionary changes [to airport slots allocation], such as a revised new-entrant rule, will lead at best to marginal improvements. A revised administrative system will still face some of the same difficulties as today, such as airlines’ incentives to game the system by exploiting the information asymmetry that exists between them and the [slot] coordinators.”
—Senthuran Rudran, UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), “Perspectives and Policies—No Time for a Soft Landing,” in “Navigating Towards a More Efficient Airports Slot Allocation Regime in Europe,” European Transport Regulation Observer, October 2019
“Space-based ADS-B is already a reality and is being used to separate air traffic today, with the same performance as domestic en-route radars. ALPA recommends that the FAA incorporate space-based ADS-B in their infrastructure plans for oceanic airspace, and that similar methods of surveillance be developed for installation on spacecraft components, including boosters and payload elements.”
—ALPA, “Safe Integration of Commercial Space Operations into the U.S. National Airspace System and Beyond,” Air Line Pilots Association, October 2019