Aviation Policy News: Attack on Space-Based ADS-B Service, Challenges to Urban Air Mobility, and More
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Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: Attack on Space-Based ADS-B Service, Challenges to Urban Air Mobility, and More

Plus: The shift from a public to commercial airport model, aviation’s other climate change problem, and more.

In this issue:

IATA’s Attack on Nav Canada’s Space-Based ADS-B Service

Last September, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) filed a detailed appeal of Nav Canada’s new charges for space-based ADS-B surveillance in the North Atlantic Tracks (NAT). Its brief (which a friend provided to me) alleged that the new charges violated the legislation that created Nav Canada, specifically the charging principles. It also made a number of other allegations that struck me as ill-considered and contrary to fact. So I was relieved when the Canadian Transportation Agency dismissed IATA’s appeal on Jan. 23.

The agency has not yet released the details of its reasoning for dismissing the appeal, but in what follows I will note the IATA allegations that struck me as off-base. The most important complaint was that the charge introduced for space-based ADS-B was unwarranted and violated Nav Canada’s charging principles. The agency found that the charging principles were followed, and much of what IATA alleged was irrelevant. For example, it cited ICAO document 9082 on recommended air traffic control charging principles to argue that the new rate was not “cost-related.” In fact, Nav Canada introduced the charge because actual surveillance in oceanic airspace is a new service, with new costs to the company. It has to pay Aireon (the provider) for this service and is passing along that cost via the new charge.

IATA also argued that Aireon is charging more in high-demand oceanic airspace (e.g., NAT) than it is in other portions of the globe where traffic demand is lower, and denounced this as cross-subsidization, also allegedly against ICAO charging principles. Yet as everyone knows, ICAO-recommended weight-distance charges for basic en-route service inherently cross-subsidize business jets and smaller airliners. Aireon is a for-profit company and, it seems to me, has every right to charge market-based prices, just as for-profit airlines do.

The most inaccurate claim in IATA’s brief is that there are no benefits at this point in time from space-based ADS-B in NAT airspace because that airspace has not yet reached “a point of saturation.” This claim is refuted by dozens of studies and articles estimating both safety and operational benefits occurring right now from this new service, over and above coping with projected future congestion in this airspace under status-quo procedural separation regulations. Safety benefits are very real, as both NATS (responsible for the eastern Shanwick oceanic airspace) and Nav Canada (western Gander airspace) have pointed out. ADS-B enables deviations from assigned altitudes and from assigned tracks to be identified by controllers almost instantly, and both air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are collecting data on large safety increases due to this feature.

In addition, the reduced lateral and longitudinal spacing already in place in NAT airspace due to space-based ADS-B is leading to meaningful increases in flights getting their first-choice altitudes and no longer being subjected to mandatory speed controls. Nav Canada reports that between May and August 2019 an average of 1,200 more flights per month operated at their preferred flight level, compared with 2018. The fuel savings alone for these flights averaged C$350 per flight, along with 1,405 kg less CO2 emissions per flight. The C$350 per-flight fuel savings compare with the added charge to airlines of just C$72 per flight. Value for money, anyone? NATS is estimating that once further-reduced separation standards are in effect later this year, the fraction of flights getting their requested trajectory will increase from 60 percent to 90 percent.

Yet another complaint in the IATA appeal was that Nav Canada’s signing up with Aireon for space-based ADS-B was somehow a conflict of interest (since Nav Canada is one of five ANSPs that have invested in Aireon). IATA argued that Nav Canada should have held a competitive procurement for this service, which is absurd for several reasons.

First, Nav Canada and the other ANSPs worked with Iridium to create Aireon so that it could provide them with this service. Eight other ANSPs have subsequently signed up, representing a total of 35 countries that will soon receive Aireon’s service. Second, there are no other providers offering this service (though IATA claims other providers are working to develop such). Third, Nav Canada is not a government agency, and is not bound by any Canadian government procurement regulations, let alone OECD procurement recommendations for governments (which IATA said should apply to Nav Canada).

It’s difficult for me to understand why IATA undertook this quixotic appeal. The rate increase amounts to less than 50 cents per passenger for typical wide-body airliners flying the North Atlantic. And the fuel savings alone are five times the average C$72 per flight cost increase.

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Urban Air Mobility Challenges

How real is the promised urban air mobility (UAM) vision, of electric, autonomous VTOLs delivering people and packages throughout large urban areas in the near future? One recent view comes from NASA. The opening sentence of a recent Aviation Week article by Guy Norris says, “Widely viewed until recently as bordering on science fiction, the age of urban air mobility (UAM) is fast approaching reality and is poised to transform both aviation and society, says NASA.” The article (“Grand Goals”) goes on to summarize the agency’s planned series of ‘Grand Challenges,’ with the first one having begun last month. The agency has carried out two market studies, estimating that there could be 750 million passenger trips in 15 (U.S.) metro areas by 2030.

Honeywell executive Mike Ingram, in an October “Viewpoint” in Aviation Week estimated that the market for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs)  “is likely to be $10-20 billion by 2030.” And indeed, several start-up companies are making what appears to be solid progress.  China’s Ehang claims to have completed over 2,000 test flights of its two prototypes, a single-seat eight-rotor model 184 and a two-seat 16-rotor 216, both autonomous. They have taken place not only in China but also in Austria, the Netherlands, and Qatar. It is pitching service in both Canada and Norway, and has plans for command-and-control centers for UAM vehicles. A 2018 study by Roland Berger projects 100,000 passenger UAM vehicles in use worldwide by 2050. And Uber Elevate says it will begin service in Dallas, Los Angeles, and a third city by 2023.

Look beyond the hype, however, and there are good reasons to question these projections. One is the challenge of achieving safety certification for an entirely new category of passenger vehicles. Another is current battery technology, which imposes serious limitations on their range and turn-round times due to the need for frequent, time-consuming recharging. Then there are all sorts of questions about impacts like noise and safety concerns in urban areas. Who is going to regulate where and when these vehicles can actually fly?

Another potential obstacle is the weather. C. Reiche and colleagues at Booz Allen Hamilton did a study assessing “potentially significant weather impacts on safety, cost, and efficiency of UAM operations.” (“Are We Ready to Weather Urban Air Mobility?” The Journal of Air Traffic Control, Winter 2019)

Their team assembled weather data for 10 large urban areas. Their data showed that adverse weather conditions (rain, snow, fog, heavy winds, etc.) vary by time of day and season of the year, and differ considerably among the urban areas studied. They used the data to calculate, for each area, the overall average number of hours that UAM operations could be significantly affected. The table below shows their estimates of the average number of impacted hours daily, by season, for each of the urban areas.

Urban Area Winter Spring Summer Fall Average
New York 12 12 0 8 8
Washington 12 12 0 0 6
Miami 0 0 0 0 0
Dallas 11 12 3 0 6.5
Houston 9 11 0 0 5
Denver 12 12 4 3 7.75
Phoenix 0 0 5 0 1.25
Los Angeles 2 1 2 1 1.5
San Francisco 3 6 6 4 4.75
Honolulu 0 7 9 6 5.5
Average 6.1 7.3 2.9 2.2

As the authors note, “In Denver, average weather conditions are unfavorable for UAM operations during most hours and most seasons,” with Dallas being the second-worst impacted. At the other extreme, weather conditions were favorable for UAM in most seasons and most hours in Miami “except for brief thunderstorms occurring frequently during early afternoon in summer and fall.”

These are preliminary findings, but, if they are borne out by more-detailed study, they raise questions about the viability of daily commercial UAM services in most of these urban areas. They also pose questions for FAA certification of regular operations in adverse weather. Large airliner operations are affected by weather, but not enough to impair regularly-scheduled service. That might not be possible for small, lightweight UAM vehicles.

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Mixed News on FAA’s Data Comm Program

As is well known, the first phase of the FAA program to add controller-pilot data link (Data Comm) to the nation’s air traffic control system was successful. That program added the capability to control towers at 62 of the nation’s busiest airports and finished two years ahead of schedule. It enables tower controllers to send departure clearances by text (instead of by voice) to cockpits, as well as last-minute revisions to those clearances.

The other mostly good news is that the first step of phase two—equipping en-route centers with Data Comm capability—has been declared operational at the first two centers: Indianapolis (ZID) and Kansas City (ZKC). This involved adding Data Comm modifications to the ERAM system (used to manage high-altitude traffic at all the centers) at ZID and ZKC.

The bad news is that modifying the others and putting Data Comm into operation there will be a longer process. This is not because it is difficult to do the required installation. Rather, the cause is an operational problem. In order to switch to large-scale use of data communications in the en-route environment, controllers need a large fraction of airliners and business jets to be equipped to use it, and not enough of these planes are equipped.

The DOT Office of Inspector General study on NextGen equipage dated December 18, 2019 (Report No. AV202014) provided some data on the extent of Data Comm equipage. Of the 7,800 aircraft currently equipped, 3,166 are domestic airliners, 1,946 are international airliners, and 2,688 are business jets. The equipped domestic airliners are 72 percent of the domestic fleet “that can be equipped with Data Comm.” Most Boeing and larger Airbus models are equipped, but many mid-size Airbus planes and regional aircraft are not. Other airliners either don’t have a flight management system that can be upgraded or are close enough to retirement that airlines won’t spend the money to upgrade them (e.g., Delta’s ancient MD-80s). Nearly all international airliners, of course, are already equipped with FANS equipage that includes data link.

Aviation Week’s Bill Carey reported (in the January 13-26 issue) that avionics suppliers and airlines are working out plans to upgrade fight management systems in planes that are still not equipped, and FAA is cautiously optimistic about progress on these fronts. But it is not optimistic enough to give us an estimate for when the remaining 18 centers will be able to declare en-route Data Comm operational.

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The Shift from Public to Commercial Airport Model
By Stephen Van Beek

“Because we had to!” — That is how a CEO from one of the nation’s largest airports answered in response to a question of why management procured a large multi-billion-dollar airport capital project through a public-private- partnership (P3) and DBFOM (Design Build Finance Operate Maintain) concession model. Over the last five years, the growth in P3s, and alternative project delivery models has accelerated, a period coinciding with record traffic at many airports as well as policy inaction in Washington, D.C.

The CEO’s decades-long DBFOM project will be designed and built by architects and developers, financed by private equity, and operated and maintained by an experienced global airport operator. Most of the funding for the multi-billion-dollar project will come from airline rates and charges and the offering of a substantially improved food & beverage and retail program to future airport passengers.

The investors for this project, like their counterparts in other projects, are willing to put up the money because airports have proven to be a stellar asset class, one that produces high single-digit returns at relatively low risk, especially over the lengthy period of a concession. Over three to five decades, perturbations like industry recessions or major events (9/11 terrorist attacks or coronavirus), have proven to be but momentary interruptions in otherwise long-term sustainable growth.

The Diminished Buying Power of FAA Programs

The airport CEO did not have a realistic option of funding the project through passenger facility charges (PFCs), federally authorized local fees assessed on the use of infrastructure, or from Airport Improvement Program (AIP) federal capital grants, since these programs were already committed, having experienced a massive two-decade reduction in their buying power. It is an odd American anomaly; notwithstanding that PFCs are local revenue assessed on the use of eligible airport projects, Washington policymakers, at the behest of the airlines and in stark contrast to other nations, have limited the charge to $4.50 per passenger since 2001 (compare this to C$25 assessed on originating Toronto passengers through their unregulated Airport Improvement Fee).

The current FAA interpretations of PFC and AIP eligibilities create additional hurdles to addressing today’s infrastructure challenges, ones neatly summarized by Kelly Campbell of Lubbock International Airport. Program eligibility focuses “on the Centerline out,” according to the executive director. This bias toward airside infrastructure ignores recent industry developments.

The FAA Hammer and the Airport Nail

The largest airports, as well as smaller airports such as Lubbock, face record numbers of passengers, but they are delivered differently today compared to 20 years ago. Yes, airlines are adding new flights, but they are operating larger aircraft across all airports, running higher load factors, as well as installing more seats in their existing aircraft. Together these trends have made the airport runways, taxiways and gates more efficient, delivering on average more passengers per aircraft operation. These developments have positive effects: this airside efficiency has extended the life of older, land-constrained airports in powerhouse aviation markets including Boston, New York and San Francisco.

But at these same airports, this airside efficiency has a flipside; more passengers per operation creates higher levels of peak loading on the passenger-centric areas of the terminal (e.g., security checkpoints, concession areas, hold rooms) and the vehicle-centric areas of the landside (e.g., curbs, roadways and gateways like tunnels and bridges). Regardless of FAA eligibility, the job of airports is to balance the airside, terminal and landside infrastructure in order to provide seamless and timely passenger journeys.

The 2020 Airport Infrastructure Problem Statement

Airport CEOs face a challenging calculus. With airline traffic growth comes service challenges, but the FAA program offers no inflation-adjusted increase in resources, federal (AIP) or local (PFC), to support capital projects, compounded by the terminal and landside eligibility restrictions.

One further dose of reality is that airports like Boston, San Diego and Seattle are land-locked, making any new development exceedingly expensive, as new capacity inevitably is built “inside the box” having cascading impacts on other infrastructure planned around yesterday’s airline business model and prior to developments such as Transportation Network Companies (which have dramatically increased the loading on roadways and curbs). While some of these projects promise future incremental — a new gate lease, a passenger meal, a parker arriving for their flight, or an Uber fee—accumulated marginal increases in revenue will take decades to pay off the high per-unit cost of the capital project.

The PFC Policy Failure

There have been any number of policy studies, the most recent by the Rand Corporation, making clear the importance of updating the Public Airport Model, including a number of options for raising the PFC to help airports pay for projects. With a PFC increase, and financing projects through tax-exempt bonds, airports can keep project costs down with lower costs of capital and without the premium of a higher return on investment from private capital.

Notwithstanding these potential savings, airline representatives continue to vociferously and effectively oppose an increase, even as past airline CEOs like Bob Crandall agree that airports have the better case for an increase. Airlines counter that they are happy to pay for projects that they either build for themselves at their strategic hubs, or to consider approval of projects that airport management brings to them. These latter two conditions were precisely the reason PFCs were created under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (1990)—a worry that airlines under old-style use and lease agreements would block airport capacity projects they did not favor, including those that added capacity and increased competition for prospective new entrants and smaller airlines. Airline success in blocking a PFC increase is a principal reason that U.S. airports are turning to more global-style commercial models.

The PFC Policy Failure

During the 1980s and 1990s, policymakers and the FAA pushed airports away from legacy use and lease agreements that often ran 20-30 years and contained provisions giving airlines a practical, if not absolute, veto over airport capital projects. Today, most of those agreements are gone, some of which are being ironically replaced by multi-decade concession agreements between airports and commercial partners. The good news is that the global airport industry has three decades of experience with P3s, and properly structured, competitive procurements can lower costs, incentivize good behaviors during the concession period, as well as help airports protect their community’s interest.

Public-private partnerships provide airports with new options. Investors today have a wide range of return-on-investment goals, appetites for risk, and interests in different types of development projects. Today there are countless industry conversations going on about finding the right investor for the right project for the right airport market. Unless growth abates, service-level challenges subside, or policymakers have an unexpected breakthrough in reinvigorating the historic elements of the FAA public program, P3 projects and a shift to a commercial airport model will undoubtedly continue.

Stephen Van Beek is director and head of North American Aviation for Steer, a consultancy providing support for airports and private equity on public and commercial projects.

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Contrails: Aviation’s Other Climate Problem

Nearly all recent discussion of aviation’s contribution to global warming has focused on CO2 emissions from aircraft engines. Like all other CO2 emissions, these remain in the atmosphere for several decades, and the total accumulation is the key factor in the amount of temperature increase. But engines also emit soot, and at high altitudes under certain conditions, the soot facilitates the formation of ice crystals which can sometimes be observed as contrails but also form into cirrus clouds, both of which block some heat radiation from escaping into space.

The best research paper I’ve seen on this is from Lance Sherry of the Center for Air Transportation Systems Research at George Mason University and Terrence Thompson of The Climate Service in Asheville, NC. They estimate that more than half of aviation’s contribution to anthropogenic temperature increase is due to aircraft-induced clouds (AIC). Yet current and proposed mitigation measures—the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) program of carbon offsets, various emission-trading proposals, and carbon taxes—ignore AIC. That’s the bad news.

The relatively good news is several-fold. First, in US airspace, on average only 15 percent of flights generate AIC. Second, their impact on warming is short-lived, compared with the long-term impact of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. Third, there are some meaningful and not-very-costly mitigation measures.

The Sherry/Thompson research paper, “A Primer on Aircraft Induced Clouds and their Global Warming Mitigation Options,” can serve as an excellent introduction to this subject. It first provides an overview of the physics of AIC formation and of how radiative forcing works (which non-technical readers can skim through).

For policy makers, the most important section is a detailed assessment of potential mitigation measures. There is a fairly large number of these, but most would require a new generation of aircraft designs, a new generation of jet engines, or replacement fuels. These are all costly and would require replacing most of the current airliner fleet or fuel-production infrastructure, taking decades. Their Table 3 lists all these alternatives, and Table 4 ranks them in terms of utility, relative cost, and bang for the buck.

Since the impact of AIC is large but short-term, the most cost-effective mitigation approach would be low-cost changes that could be implemented very soon. Fortunately, there is one very attractive candidate: changing flight plans to avoid the atmospheric conditions that are conducive to the formation of AIC. And that typically means flying a few thousand feet higher over regions with ice-super-saturated (ISS) conditions. The authors note that military aircraft often do this to avoid producing contrails that would make it easy for adversaries to identify where they are going.

Sherry and Thompson reject the idea of flying around such regions, due to the increased fuel burn and CO2 emissions that would generate. Their calculations estimate that a 2,000 ft. increase in cruise altitude over those regions would decrease non-radiative forcing by 62 percent, while a 4,000 ft. increase would reduce NRF by 92 percent. The difference in fuel burn for these alternatives would be very small. Another relatively low-cost measure for soot reduction would be to switch to low-sulfur kerosene, which would require a change in the refining process. Because contrails/AIC affect the climate today, compared with the long-term effect of CO2 emissions, there appears to be a strong case for taking action in the near term, to reduce about half of aviation’s carbon footprint.

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New Aircraft, New Airline Promise Increased U.S. Competition

We continue to hear concerns that U.S. commercial aviation is dominated by the big four airlines, created via mergers: American, Delta, Southwest, and United. It is also widely believed that smaller airports have been left in the dust by major hubs dominated by one (or occasionally two) of the big four. But let’s look at a few numbers and trends to see if this gloomy picture is accurate.

In 2018, only 12 of the 30 U.S. large hubs exceeded five percent enplanement growth. By contrast, 23 of 31 medium hubs exceeded that growth rate. Even the 69 small hubs have experienced a growth of 30 percent in available seats since 2015, due to airline replacement of 50-seat regional jets with larger planes. There is also latent demand for airport growth in the form of secondary airports in large urban areas. Recent examples are last year’s opening of commercial service at Paine Field north of Seattle, continued growth at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, and the ongoing turnaround at Ontario, CA, in the fastest-growing part of greater Los Angeles. And if somebody ever figures out a way to counter Delta’s political clout in Atlanta, we would surely see the emergence of a secondary airport in its northern suburbs.

Over the past decade, ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit have grown at a much higher rate than other U.S. airlines, bringing new service to smaller airports by offering direct routes that bypass transfers at hubs. This month’s big news is the announcement by JetBlue founder David Neeleman that his new airline, Breeze, is expected to begin service by the end of this year.

Breeze will begin with Embraer E195s, which are smaller and shorter-range than the 60 Airbus A220s he has on order with deliveries starting in 2021. Its first routes will be three north-south leisure routes east of the Mississippi—under-served city pairs that currently lack nonstop service (unless the expanding ULCCs manage to get there first). Next year will bring more eastern service, and then expansion to the Midwest and Texas.

It’s not clear whether Breeze will seek to be price-competitive with ULCCs or will try to provide a better value by offering a package of services at somewhat higher fares. But the additional service offered by the latest airline from the founder of four successful other carriers (Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue, and Azul) will likely debut with a unique selling proposition somewhere between ULCCs and the big four. That will mean additional choices for air travelers—and more business for smaller airports.

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News Notes

A Good Space-Based ADS-B Makes The Wall Street Journal

Aviation insiders often complain that too many mass media stories about air traffic control either misunderstand the subject or simplify it to the point of inaccuracy. But The Wall Street Journal’s Jo Craven McGinty did an excellent job of explaining space-based ADS-B and its benefits for global aviation in her January 24th article, “Air Traffic Control Is in the Midst of a Major Change.” This would be a good piece to share with non-aviation friends.

Phoenix Cancels Parking P3 Solicitation

Dashing the hopes of a number of companies and infrastructure investors, the city of Phoenix recently issued a curt announcement that the parking structure procurement is cancelled and will not be restarted. The only explanation given in the announcement was that “uncertainties in the project risk profile . . . are beyond the control of the City.” One source suggests that because the revenue-based parking concession would have led to an increase in the fees paid by transportation network companies (TNCs), a backlash from that sector led a closely divided city council to drop the project.

Auckland Airport Launching Counter-Drone System

Airways New Zealand, that country’s self-supporting ANSP, has announced an agreement with Operational Solutions Ltd. (UK) to jointly develop a counter-drone and UAS traffic management system at Auckland International Airport. It will combine OSL’s counter-drone system with Airways’ UTM platform, in existence since 2014. OSL the previous month announced that it had been chosen to implement a counter-drone system at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Bidders Shortlisted for Athens Airport Stake

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) has announced that nine teams have made the shortlist to bid for 30 percent of the equity of Athens International Airport. They include well-known players Aeroports de Paris, AviAlliance, Ferrovial, Global Infrastructure Partners, and Vinci Airports. The equity stake in question is the government’s last share of ownership in the airport.

Netherlands Developing UAS Traffic Management System

LVNL, the Dutch ANSP, has signed a contract with Altitude Angel to develop a nationwide U-Space platform. The UK company has worked with NATS, that country’s ANSP, on an unmanned aircraft traffic management system that was demonstrated at Manchester Airport in 2018. LVNL plans to use the platform to enable commercial drone flights in Dutch airspace. The system will include a drone registration system, a flight authorization process, and operating systems that interface with LVNL’s existing air traffic management system.

Planned Expansion of Stansted Airport Now on Hold

Last month, the local council of the area in which London Stansted Airport is located voted to deny planning permission for the expansion. The project involves a $170 million arrivals building to permit eventual growth from today’s 28 million annual passengers to a maximum of 43 million. Stansted, part of Manchester Airports Group, is a major base for low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair. The project had the support of the previous local council majority, but that changed following an election in May 2019. The new majority cited noise, air quality, and climate change as reasons for its decision.

JetBlue Commits to Carbon Neutrality

On Jan. 6, JetBlue announced its plan to offset 100 percent of carbon emissions on its domestic flights by July of this year. It is the first U.S. carrier to announce such a policy. Air France and EasyJet have made similar commitments for domestic flights in Europe. JetBlue offsets will involve forest conservation, landfill gas capture and solar/wind electric generation. It is partnering with Carbonfund.org in this endeavor.

Airservices Australia Embraces Airport Collaborative Decision-Making

The ANSP of Australia announced in December a partnership with the airports of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, along with airlines Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Alliance, to implement airport collaborative decision-making (A-CDM). The aim is to share real-time information on aircraft departures among the ANSP, airport, and airlines so as to reduce aircraft waiting times on taxiways. Sweden’s Saab will operate a cloud-based platform to enable the A-CDM process.

FAA’s Space Data Integrator to Debut in August

On Jan. 30, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson announced that the system developed to provide real-time information on space launches—SDI—is expected to go live in August. His statement also referred to the associated aircraft hazard area generator, which will calculate and display (also in real-time) the amount of airspace that must be restricted during launch and recovery operations. Together, SDI and the hazard area generator will be far more useful than SDI alone, but it is not clear whether the hazard area generator will also go live in August.

Denmark Announces First Remote Tower Center

Naviair, the Danish ANSP, announced this month that it has signed a contract with Frequentis DFS Aerosense to deploy a remote tower center at Billund, the country’s second-largest airport. Its initial task will be to provide tower services for the airspace around Billund, but the facility will be designed to serve that function for other Danish airports. Denmark is the seventh country to select a Frequentis “remote digital tower solution.”

San Diego Proceeding with 30-Gate Terminal Replacement

San Diego County’s Regional Airport Authority board approved the final environmental impact report on the airport’s $3 billion development plan. Its centerpiece is replacing the 53-year-old 19-gate Terminal 1 with a new 30-gate terminal. The project also involves roadway improvements and a connection to a proposed nearby transit hub. The schedule calls for ground-breaking on the terminal in 2021 and opening by 2024. The plan is to procure the project on a design-build basis.

Aireon Wins Aviation Week Laurel for 2020

In its January 13-26 issue, Aviation Week & Space Technology announced its 2020 laureate winners. In the air traffic management category, the winner was Aireon—developer and operator of the world’s first global, space-based ADS-B surveillance system.

Vinci Airports Studying Carbon Charge for Aircraft

The world’s fifth-largest airport company by revenue, Vinci Airports, is studying a fee on aircraft CO2 emissions, to provide an incentive for carriers to upgrade their fleets to more fuel-efficient aircraft. The first airport where such a fee may be implemented is Lyon, one of the company’s numerous airports, which are located in Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, France, Japan, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, and the USA. Vinci is aiming to halve the company’s carbon footprint by 2030 and to become carbon-neutral by 2050. A number of airports already impose noise fees, including privatized Heathrow and Gatwick.

Memphis Mulls a P3 for New Travel Plaza

Inframation News reports that Memphis International Airport is planning to add a travel plaza on airport property, including a rental car refueling station, a convenience store, and a fast-food outlet. A public-private partnership (P3) is being considered by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Board. The travel plaza would be part of the airport’s new master plan.

Local Opposition Emerges to Remote Tower Center in Scotland

Last year, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) announced plans to create a remote tower center to provide services for its 11 airports. The new problem is resistance by the majority of current controllers, whose jobs are not at risk but many of whom would have to relocate in order to work at the new center. And their concern has now led to some elected officials expressing opposition to the plan.

Bipartisan Proposal for PreCheck as REAL ID

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R, AZ) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D, FL) have introduced a bill that would count PreCheck membership as a form of REAL ID. Federal law requires that, by Oct. 1, all air travelers have identification that qualifies under the REAL ID definition, which includes specially marked drivers’ licenses, passports, and Global Entry and other DHS trusted traveler programs. Their Trusted Traveler REAL ID Relief Act would add PreCheck membership to that list.

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