Aviation Policy News: Air Traffic Benefits From NextGen Are Far Below Expectations, New Airlines Keep Starting Up, and More

Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: Air Traffic Benefits From NextGen Are Far Below Expectations, New Airlines Keep Starting Up, and More

Plus: Space-based aircraft surveillance now worldwide, FAA progress on drone traffic management, and more.

This issue of Aviation Policy News is also available online here.

In this issue:

Air Traffic Benefits from NextGen Are Far Below Expectations

That’s the finding of a new report from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), released March 30, 2021 (Report No. AV2021023). This is partly due to initial benefits estimates that assumed much faster air traffic growth than has actually happened (not counting the current pandemic-induced slump). It’s partly due to cumbersome Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bureaucracy, too, but also to a problem foreseen early on: that benefits depended on coordinated improvements by both FAA and airspace users, which has also fallen short.

Back in 2007, the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), the original conceptualizer of what became NextGen, projected total benefits of $213 billion by 2025, primarily from large increases in airspace capacity to cope with very large projected growth in air traffic. But as the OIG report explains, “traffic has remained largely flat since NextGen began.” Over the years, FAA has reduced its benefits estimates a number of times, as the reality of flat growth in flight activity sank in. FAA’s most recent estimate, in 2017, was $100 billion, less than half the original JPDO estimate. But that itself seems open to question.

First, FAA’s current claim is that so far, from 2010 to 2018, NextGen has generated only $6 billion in benefits, split among FAA, airlines, and air travelers. That is lower than the $9 billion FAA has spent on NextGen, so the benefit/cost ratio is well below 1.0 thus far. The OIG auditors attempted to validate FAA’s benefits estimate, for example, assembling data on taxi times and delays, retrieved from DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the 24 largest domestic airlines. On these analyses, the auditors noted, “We were not able to identify any clear improvements to [National Airspace System] operations overall. Instead, overall operations appeared to become less efficient, with average taxi time, departure delays, and arrival delays all increasing over this period.”

The report also pointed out that although FAA has implemented much of the NextGen infrastructure, “new capabilities that are expected to generate benefits are not widely used or have yet to be implemented, including advanced [Performance Based Navigation] procedures and reduced separation standards from ADS-B.” Also, key controller tools for PBN procedures, such as terminal sequencing and spacing and terminal flight data manager, have not yet been deployed. Delays and cost overruns on such projects have been discussed over the years in this newsletter and in a long string of Government Accountability Office (GAO) and OIG reports. Another FAA program expected to generate significant benefits is Metroplex, aimed at implementing PBN procedures at 31 major airports by 2022. After unexpected problems at the first several airports, FAA scaled back the plan to only 19 airports and stretched out its implementation schedule.

Besides delays resulting from FAA and its contractors, another significant problem is that not all airlines have equipped their aircraft to use the new technologies and procedures. Given FAA’s track record on implementation, airlines have been reluctant to invest in new avionics, for fear that they would spend money on new equipment that might be unused or under-used for years. And when FAA occasionally implements something far faster than aircraft operators expected (e.g., the ADS-B ground station network), operators had little incentive to equip their planes until the agency’s actual equipage deadline of Jan. 1, 2020.

To address this kind of mismatch, there were two basic choices. One was to adopt a policy of best-equipped/best-served (BEBS), under which only aircraft equipped with the needed technology could fly preferred routes and get prime positions in approach queues. This was basically what Nav Canada and NATS implemented for the North Atlantic. But the idea was resisted by some U.S. airlines and bizjet operators, so FAA never tried to pursue it. The other, implemented only for ADS-B, would be to devise a list of key avionics with an implementation deadline for the entire fleet needing access to controlled airspace. That also seemed too radical for a critical mass of the aircraft operator community.

As a next-best approach, the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) has developed a Minimum Capabilities List (MCL) of equipment that both mainline and regional carriers need in order to take advantage of PBN, data communications, and surveillance. But FAA seems to have no intention of setting deadlines for any of this, or of devising a BEBS policy. Instead, the latest idea gaining support among airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association is to define the MCL as “infrastructure” and argue for it to be included in the Biden administration’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. That is unfair to airlines that have already made these equipage investments, but when the government is prepared to offer lots of “free money,” it’s not surprising to see avionics subsidies getting added to wish lists.

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Space-Based ADS-B Surveillance in Operation Over Half the Globe

Aireon, the company providing space-based surveillance of air traffic via Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast ( ADS-B ), issued two news releases last month, announcing subscriber developments. The company also told this newsletter that adding up all of its agreements with air navigation service providers, the system is providing near-real-time surveillance over 248 million square kilometers of the earth’s surface, which is nearly 49% of the total 510 million sq. km.

The two subscribers mentioned in the March news releases are in areas that previously lacked radar surveillance. The first is the Port Moresby Flight Information Region (FIR), and the air navigation service provider (ANSP) is NiuSky Pacific Limited (NSPL), the ANSP of Papua New Guinea. This FIR borders the Brisbane FIR on the south and the FAA’s Oakland FIR and Air Nav Indonesia’s Ujung Pandang FIR to the north and east. NSPL was unable to provide effective ground-based surveillance on its own territory due to very mountainous terrain, and the vast majority of its FIR is oceanic airspace.

The second subscriber, ASECNA, was already operational, but its March 17 announcement was about adding a third ADS-B Service Delivery Point in its Dakar, Senegal, operations center. The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) provides air navigation services in six FIRs serving 17 countries in west Africa and Madagascar. It first subscribed to Aireon’s services in January 2020, pursuant to its vision of a Single African Sky. Prior to space-based ADS-B surveillance, there was little radar surveillance in this vast territory.

There is also Aireon news in the United States. Runway Girl Network this month provided an informative update on the progress of FAA’s ongoing evaluation of space-based ADS-B in the Miami Oceanic and Caribbean region. The original one-year contract has been extended due to COVID-19. With a vast expanse of ocean and very little radar surveillance, the use of space-based ADS-B offers obvious opportunities for improved surveillance and increased capacity in this region. Due to its adjacency to domestic east coast air traffic, portions of the Caribbean are “a very rough [radio frequency] environment,” with lots of potential radio frequency interference. Aircraft with only bottom-mounted (as opposed to top-mounted) ADS-B antennas can be difficult to detect in that kind of environment. Based on an interview with Aireon CEO Don Thoma, the news site reported that FAA is considering evaluations in other regions including Anchorage oceanic, Oakland oceanic, and remote Pacific island territories.

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New Airlines Popping Up Like Mushrooms

Despite major upsets in air travel through the years—9/11, the financial market crash and ensuing Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic—there always seem to be entrepreneurs ready to move into market niches left exposed by market disruptions. As Aviation Week’s team of writers put it in a recent article on the phenomenon, “[T]he airline industry would not be the airline industry if there were not a substantial number of new carrier projects lined up and waiting for the right moment to launch their first flights.” Their team of reporters estimates that, worldwide, the number of airline startups this year could surpass the number of airline failures last year.

While it may sound like a very risky thing to do, starting a new airline has several potential advantages. The established airlines are generally weaker than before, serving fewer points and with much leaner balance sheets. Second, those carriers have pulled out of numerous “thin” markets, leaving many smaller city-pairs with no non-stop service between them. Third, used aircraft are available at historically low cost, either to buy or to lease. Fourth, the legacy carriers have much higher overhead than a lean and mean startup. And fifth, there are cockpit and cabin crew candidates available in abundance, some of whom are ready to move up from low-paying regional airlines and others who accepted early retirement packages from legacy carriers but still want to fly.

A key factor for investors, besides those general points, is an experienced and successful airline veteran as founding CEO. The two most promising U.S. startups—Avelo and Breeze—qualify on this point. Avelo, recently unveiled, is the brainchild of Andrew Levy, former CFO of United and then president of Allegiant Airways. And Breeze, as is widely known, is the latest startup from serial entrepreneur David Neeleman, whose successful startups include JetBlue, WestJet, and Azul. Both plan to operate their new airlines as low-cost carriers (LCCs) with basic pricing plus charging for ancillary services. But their planned market niches are somewhat different.

Avelo will launch from Burbank (BUR), starting with 11 routes to popular leisure destinations in the West, such as Bend, Bozeman, Eugene, Medford, Redding, and Santa Rosa. Future hubs will be selected at other secondary airports in large metro areas (e.g., Mesa Airport in metro Phoenix, perhaps Sarasota in the Tampa Bay area, or Hobby in metro Houston). It will begin service from Burbank at the end of this month, with used 737-800s.

Breeze has a somewhat different approach. While also embracing the LCC model, it will shun hubs and focus on non-stop services connecting currently unserved small and medium city pairs, starting east of the Mississippi. With expected demand somewhat lower on these thinner routes, Breeze will operate a mixed fleet, with two versions of Embraer E-jets to begin with and soon after that the first of an order for 60 Airbus A220-300s. Whereas Avelo’s 737s will have 189 seats, Breezes E-jets will have 110-122 seats and the larger A220s will seat up to 160.

These two startups will be good news for small and medium airports across the country. They will be seeking routes unserved by legacy carriers or offering service where they compete with legacies at lower no-frills fares. Not everyone is willing to put up with less legroom and minimal onboard services, but the success of Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit suggests that this model has room to expand. It’s another example of the democratization of air travel unleashed more than 40 years ago by deregulator Alfred Kahn.

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GAO Renews Concerns about FAA’s Progress on UTM
By Marc Scribner

In January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report (GAO-21-165) on FAA’s ongoing efforts to create a traffic management system for drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Based on its review and consultation with UAS stakeholders, GAO made two recommendations for FAA to improve its development and eventual implementation of a UAS traffic management (UTM) system. FAA’s response to a recommendation to develop UTM implementation performance goals and measures suggests this is an area UAS stakeholders and congressional overseers will need to closely monitor in the coming years.

FAA has been working on UTM since 2015, when it began collaborating with NASA on a UTM Research Transition Team Plan to examine UTM approaches and technologies, with the goal being NASA to conduct initial technical research and to transfer that knowledge to FAA for implementation. After NASA’s final demonstration project, known as technical capability level 4, was completed in August 2019 at test sites in Reno, Nevada, and Corpus Christi, Texas, NASA transferred the Flight Information Management System, a key UAS data exchange platform, to FAA for further development and deployment.

In the interim, FAA had been honing its UTM architecture vision, where a key principle is that UTM will be incrementally developed, with the focus beginning with low-complexity operations and building to higher-complexity operations over time. This principle was expressed in FAA’s initial UTM Concept of Operations (ConOps) released in May 2018, and was included in the revised ConOps released in March 2020.

Despite FAA’s claimed commitment to incremental progress in the development of UTM, UAS stakeholders have argued that FAA’s sharing of information on that incremental progress has been lacking. GAO surveyed stakeholders and examined FAA documents, confirming that “FAA has provided limited information about a timetable and minimum explanation of the next steps for implementing UTM.” One stakeholder complained that even with phase 2 of FAA’s UTM Pilot Program initiated, “FAA had not provided a timeline, including commitments for UTM elements FAA was responsible for providing.” Others were uncertain what to do with the technologies and research NASA had transferred to FAA for implementation. Beyond general support for FAA’s high-level UTM principles, UAS stakeholders appear to lack any meaningful understanding of when, where, and how FAA plans to proceed with further developments and deployments.

GAO recommended that FAA “should provide stakeholders with additional information on the timing and substance of future UTM testing and implementation efforts, using FAA’s UTM website or other appropriate means.” In response, FAA has said it would seek to provide more detailed information to stakeholders in a third version of the UTM ConOps that is targeted for release in fall 2021, as well as in a UTM implementation plan that is also under development and due to be released in spring 2022. However, there is reason to believe industry, government, and research stakeholders will be waiting quite some time for the information they seek.

GAO found that FAA has not developed specific performance goals and measurements on UTM implementation that could be used to gauge the agency’s progress. FAA told GAO that the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that mandated the creation of the UTM implementation plan does not require that the implementation plan include these elements. Also, developing those elements might delay the release of the implementation plan, and as such they “do not agree to incorporate performance goals and measures in the UTM Implementation Plan.”

While developing performance goals and measures certainly requires time and effort, the benefits almost certainly exceed the costs. GAO notes that after it raised similar concerns to FAA in 2010 about its NextGen overhaul of air traffic control, the agency subsequently agreed in 2012 to develop metrics and goals. “As a result of these actions, stakeholders, interested parties, Congress, and the American people have a clearer picture of where implementation stands at any given time, and whether the technologies, capabilities, and operational improvements that are being implemented are resulting in positive outcomes and improved performance for operators and passengers,” notes the GAO report.

Readers of this newsletter are well aware of the value of being able to measure NextGen’s progress against FAA’s promises. Shining the light on what works, and what doesn’t, helps policymakers and the public develop a fuller understanding of the challenges and actionable solutions, as we have seen in the discussions to reform air traffic control in response to the delays and cost overruns that have plagued NextGen.

FAA’s decision to exclude performance goals and measures from its forthcoming UTM implementation plan suggests FAA’s UTM progress—or lack thereof—is likely to remain opaque for at least the next few years. Whether its UTM efforts face similarly underwhelming prospects as FAA’s experience with NextGen remains to be seen.

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Some Airport Slots Opened to Newcomers in Europe

As many expected, the European Union agreed with legacy airlines to continue suspending the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule for slots at congested airports through the summer 2021 season, as did the United Kingdom. But so many legacy carriers have cut back so severely that some slots have become available, at least for the summer season. And in exchange for government bailouts of struggling legacy airlines, a few of their previous slots have been reallocated permanently, in France and Germany.

Slots are a non-market mechanism used to allocate scarce capacity at 177 “Level 3” airports, defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as having capacity less than demand. Only three U.S. airports (JFK, LGA, and DCA) are so designated, but many of the largest airports in Europe and Asia are Level 3, including all three major London airports, both major Paris airports, Singapore, both major Tokyo airports, etc. When slots began decades ago, they were assigned to the incumbent legacy carriers, which created obstacles for would-be new entrants as airline service was deregulated in Europe and much of Asia and Latin America. As a small concession to competitive entry, the use-it-or-lose-it rule was adopted, such that any slot pair not used at least 80% of the time during a year must be relinquished. Given the unprecedented shrinkage in air travel due to the pandemic, governments have agreed to waive that rule, most recently for summer 2021.

That situation posed an obstacle to JetBlue’s ambitious plans to begin trans-Atlantic service this summer, starting with New York to London. While it was able to obtain slots at London Gatwick (LGW) and Stansted (STN), it was unable to do so at UK’s biggest hub, Heathrow (LHR). In January it filed a complaint with U.S. DOT, arguing that given that LHR was experiencing “reduced services [by incumbent airlines] at a scale previously unimaginable,” it was being unfairly locked out of LHR.

In March, however, UK regulators changed their minds—at least for summer 2021. Slot coordinator Airport Coordination Limited announced that it was reassigning unused LHR slots. Eleven airlines received new slots, including existing operators Virgin Atlantic, DHL, and Aegean. The biggest winner among newcomers was Loganair (2,914 slots) and the smallest was JetBlue (270). As this is being written, news reports say that JetBlue will serve Terminal 2 at LHR. It is unclear whether it will decide to also use the previously assigned slots at LGW and STN.

One consequence of Brexit may be further UK slot liberalization. The UK Competition and Markets Authority has been thinking about the barriers to competition inherent in the current slot system. It has discussed scrapping the EU system (based on IATA’s incumbent-protection principles) in favor of a more competition-friendly alternative. LHR and LGW already charge variable landing fees, taking into account both time of day and noise impacts. Pricing runway access at market-clearing rates (for both take-offs and landings) would be a dramatic change. If it is ever going to be adopted, the best time would be now, when legacy carriers are in a poor financial position to simply pay whatever it might take to keep out new entrants.

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Report Questions Early Deployment of eVTOL Passenger Service

Research firm PitchBook released a report earlier this month highlighting the technology, regulatory, and infrastructure hurdles facing the large array of start-up companies developing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs), mostly for urban air taxi service. Analyst Asad Hussain concludes that these obstacles, though costly, can likely be overcome by the best-funded startups, but actual passenger service is unlikely until the second half of this decade.

One pressing problem is the relatively low energy density of current batteries, compared with the energy density of aviation fuel. Lots of research and development is going on, but flying prototypes today rely on batteries unable to deliver the needed level of performance, especially for longer-distance travel (between cities, as opposed to within metro areas).

Another potential problem is a shortage of pilots competent in VTOL operations. Some of the startups hope to dispense with pilots in future decades, but for now, it is highly likely that government certification will require initial eVTOLs to be piloted.

Certification itself is a major hurdle, in Hussain’s assessment. He estimates the cost of certification, including design work and setting up production facilities, will exceed $1 billion, which could weed out many of the less-well-funded startups. His report estimates that of the 100+ startups, only Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Archer have enough funding commitments as of March to be able to do this.

And then there is infrastructure. While some vertiports exist in urban areas (to serve helicopters), they are nowhere near enough or necessarily located in the desired places. In addition, charging facilities and air traffic management capable of handling large numbers of relatively low-flying eVTOLs are additional constraints that someone must pay for.

Noise may be less of a problem, given that most eVTOL designs avoid the very large rotors of helicopters. Hussain estimates that noise levels could be 20dB lower than that of helicopters, which would make a very real difference.

Finally, there is the resulting cost per passenger mile for eVTOL transportation. Unless urban air taxis are going to be a subsidized industry, that unit cost must cover not just operations but the underlying development and production cost of the vehicles. The report estimates helicopter operating costs at around $9/passenger-mile and notes that some eVTOL companies are aiming for costs around $3/passenger-mile.

The three startups that Hussain thinks have the best chance have each drawn impressive financial backers.

  • Archer is expected to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) this quarter, at an estimated valuation of $3.8 billion-plus and a $1 billion order for eVTOLs from United Airlines.
  • Joby Aviation also plans a SPAC listing, with an expected valuation of $6.6 billion and backers including BlackRock and Fidelity.
  • Lilium, which unveiled its new 7-passenger inter-city eVTOL design last month, also plans a SPAC merger, with backing from BlackRock, Fidelity, Tencent, Ferrovial, Palantir, and others.

These three will have the resources to address all the concerns raised by PitchBook, but the bottom line remains cost and passenger demand. The jury is still out on both.

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News Notes

Brazil Leases 22 Airports for $600 Million  
Earlier this month the Brazilian government announced that it has successfully leased three groups of medium-sized airports to two airport companies. Brazilian infrastructure company CCR won the bidding for 15 medium-size airports, nine in southern Brazil, including the one serving Curitiba, and six in the central region. Global airport company Vinci Airports won the bidding for seven airports in the northern region. Unsuccessful bidders included global airport companies AENA (Spain) and Corporacion America Airports (Argentina). Vinci’s latest win brings the number of airports it operates to 52, of which 16 are in Latin America.

Nav Canada Agrees Not to Close Smaller Control Towers
After careful study of decreased air traffic and tower operating costs, Canadian ANSP Nav Canada announced on April 15 that low-activity towers in Windsor, Regina, Prince George, Fort McMurray, and St. Jean will remain open. The potential closing of these towers stirred opposition from controllers and some elected officials. The company is continuing to study air traffic trends and has not ruled out reductions in the hours of service at some towers. Its revenue in February was down 58.2% from February 2020.

Denmark’s First Remote Tower Passes Proof of Concept Testing
Danish ANSP Naviair and technology provider Frequentis DFS Aerosense have announced the completion of proof of concept testing carried out at a Frequentis facility in Austria. The system will be housed in Naviair’s first remote tower center at Billund Airport, Denmark’s second-largest. It combines a digital remote tower with an automated approach control system called PRIMSA APP. This will be the world’s first combination of a digital tower and approach control.

Will Autonomous Vehicles Capture Market Share from Short-Haul Aviation?
That is the prediction of a paper originally presented at the Transportation Research Board’s 2018 annual meeting and published last year in the Journal of Transport Geography, issue 82. “Anticipating Long-Distance Travel Shifts Due to Self-Driving Vehicles,” by researchers Kenneth Perrine, Kara Kockelman, and Yantao Huang, used an established travel demand model for inter-city trips by individuals. Adding a new autonomous vehicle mode to the model, and making various assumptions, led to both a significant shift from airline to AV and an increase in surface vehicle miles of travel.

Ground-Based Navaid Providers form Association
Six companies that provide ground-based navigation aids, such as Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs), have launched the Ground-Based Aviation Infrastructure Coalition to raise concerns about aging navaids and FAA’s slow long-term plans for replacement. I addressed some of these concerns in “A Rebirth for Instrument Landing Systems?” in the March 2020 issue of this newsletter.

French Government Considers Banning Short-Haul Flights
Lawmakers in the National Assembly voted in favor of a proposal to ban all flights between French cities where there is direct passenger rail service taking no more than 2.5 hours. This would end air routes between Paris Orly and Bordeaux, between Lyon and Nantes, and between Lyon and Marseilles. But in a move that favors partly state-owned carrier Air France, feeder flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle would be exempted.

Pittsburgh Begins Building New $1.39 Billion Terminal
Despite the slow recovery of air travel, officials of Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) earlier this month announced the start of construction on its replacement main terminal. The project will replace the distant airside building with an integrated airside/ground-side terminal with an adjoining parking structure. Major airlines serving PIT agreed to the beginning of site preparation work, and a taxiway is being closed to create a construction staging area.

Paine Field One of Top-10 U.S. Small Airports
Thanks to its privately developed terminal and convenient airline service, Paine Field north of Seattle has again been named one of America’s 10 best small airports in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards for Travel. In a unique public-private partnership with the local airport authority, Propeller Airports designed, financed, built, and operates the terminal, which has brought scheduled passenger service to the northern suburbs of Seattle.

Fraport Delays Frankfurt Terminal 3 Opening to 2026
Global airport company Fraport announced late in March that its under-construction Terminal 3, whose first phase was originally scheduled to open this year, with the other portions to open in 2023, will now not be completed until 2026. The delay is caused by some construction problems but also by reduced revenue due to the pandemic-caused decline in air travel. In 2020, passenger numbers using its Frankfurt hub dropped by more than 73% from the previous year, with significant decreases at the company’s 30 other airports.

San Diego Seeking P3 Proposals for Full-Service Airport Lounge
Last month, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority issued an RFP seeking proposals for a full-service airport lounge in Terminal 2 West. The request for proposals includes a number of service requirements, and requires a minimum investment of $300 per square foot. Proposals are due May 7.

Hong Kong Getting Digital Tower and Apron Surveillance
Searidge Technologies has won a contract to provide a pair of technology solutions for Hong Kong International Airport. It has been selected by the Airport Authority to provide its Digital Apron Management system to provide surveillance and anomaly detection for the aprons and critical aircraft maneuvering areas. And it has been selected by the ANSP, the Civil Aviation Department, to provide a Digital Tower Facility. The two systems will be integrated and operated jointly.

Investors Sought for Billy Bishop Airport
Ports Toronto has issued a Request for Information as a step toward finding an investor for its Billy Bishop Airport, located adjacent to downtown Toronto. Both airlines that serve the airport, Air Canada and Porter, have suspended operations there since March 2020. The agency hopes to find an investor to operate the airport under lease. The airport’s terminal is owned and operated by Nieuport Aviation Infrastructure Partners, an infrastructure investment fund.

Technology Firm May Offer Less-Intrusive Airport Screening
The Wall Street Journal (March 7) reported that Evolv Technology has developed a screening platform that uses artificial intelligence and data science to screen people for weapons and other threats, claiming that this would eliminate the need for metal detectors and physical security checks. It is in use at New York’s Lincoln Center, Six Flags theme parks, and a number of sports stadiums. Investors in the soon-to-go-public company include Microsoft’s Bill Gates and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Denver Airport Again Considering Relocating TSA Screening
After parting ways with Ferrovial Airport by terminating its long-term agreement to finance, build, and operate the revamped Great Hall Terminal, the Denver airport scaled back the project to $770 million by eliminating the original plan to relocate TSA screening points from lower Level 5 to an expanded Level 6. But on April 9, Airport Director Kim Day told the City Council that it is reconsidering that decision. No cost estimate is currently available on adding this major relocation to the ongoing renovation project.

Five More Airlines Join TSA PreCheck
Since boarding pass information is needed by TSA to verify passenger eligibility for PreCheck screening, airlines that wish to enable their passengers to use PreCheck need to sign up to work directly with TSA. Last month five more airlines joined up, bringing the total to 82. The newcomers are LATAM, TAM, Lan Peru, Ecuador’s national carrier, and U.S.-based Air Choice One.

Bradley International Seeking Real Estate Developers
Connecticut’s largest airport has received responses to its request for information from potential developers of three sites on the airport property. Sixty-two firms responded concerning the 10-acre and 8-acre sites, and 53 responded regarding a 5-acre parcel. The airport is considering entering into design/build/finance/operate/maintain P3 agreements for developments related to airport concerns, such as fueling stations and hangar facilities.

Southampton Airport Runway Extension Approved
This airport on England’s south coast took a major hit when its primary airline, flybe, was liquidated last year as a consequence of the pandemic. Losing 89% of its passengers was a major blow. To attract larger carriers flying A320 and 737 aircraft, it needs a longer runway than its current 5,5651 ft.  Adding 538 ft. would enable those aircraft to take off without payload restrictions. Despite the usual kinds of opposition, a 19-hour local council session ended up approving the runway extension on April 10. The project is expected to take one year.

Putting Terrorism Risk in Context
The Winter 2020-2021 issue of Regulation has a useful article comparing the U.S. risks of dying from an array of adverse events. While the risk of dying in miscellaneous accidents is one death per 1,912 people, and in car crashes is one in 8,078 people, the risk of dying from terrorism is one in 2.2 million. The article is “What Should We Fear Most and What Should We Do About It?” by David Henderson and Charles Hooper.

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Quotable Quotes

“Diana Furchtgott-Roth asks rhetorically, ‘Will We Be Ready if GPS Goes Down?’ (op-ed, March 20). Today, despite an increase in the frequency of GPS outages (some intentional), the answer is no. That’s why her urgent plea for funding backup technology, in keeping with the Transportation Department’s recent report to Congress, deserves prompt attention. DOT has been serving up sound, peer-reviewed recommendations since the George W. Bush administration. Yet inter-agency squabbling and penny-wise budget decisions over the years have left the country exposed to the consequences of GPS failure.”
—Jeffrey N. Shane [former Undersecretary for Policy at US DOT], “A GPS Outage Would Leave the World Lost,” The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2021

“Today [aviation] represents no more than 2-3% of global emissions, even before the COVID-19 crisis kept many airplanes on the ground. In fact, it is far less than the environmental footprint of the digital technology sector, which is never blamed for using huge amounts of power for video streaming, data storage, and air conditioning of multi-acre server farms. Nonetheless, aviation is being targeted by those who believe that the only solution to meeting environmental objectives is to shut down the industry, with no regard for its actual impact on climate. This ‘plane bashing’ borders on fanaticism.”
—Bertrand Piccard, “Rising to the Climate Challenge,” Viewpoint, Aviation Week, March 8-21, 2021

“All aviation security processes are expenses detracting from aviation economic systems, and in an ideal world, unnecessary. . . . The cost of screening airport employees, which should have been done for decades, is but one other cost imposed on the aviation industry because of the existing and anticipated threats against aviation. To me, it’s not a question of whether it is necessary but rather how best to incorporate it into the current and overall future aviation security system at a minimum of cost.”
—Billie H. Vincent (former aviation security professional, now retired), email to Robert Poole, April 16, 2021[used here with permission]

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