Aviation Policy News #165
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Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News #165

Managing traffic for Urban Air Mobility, little progress on airport crisis management, and more.

In this issue:

Managing Low-Altitude Air Traffic

Several years ago, the buzz was all about the rapid proliferation of drones in low-altitude airspace, leading to concerns about how such traffic would be managed. Today, the growing concern is about small VTOLs carrying passengers in urban airspace. This new concept is called Urban Air Mobility (UAM), and has been popularized by Uber, which is now holding annual Uber Elevate conferences and networking with established and start-up vehicle developers.

Much of the work on drone traffic management has been carried out by NASA (whose middle name, remember, is aeronautics) under a project called UAS Traffic Management. (UAS means unmanned aerial system.) NASA will finish its own testing of prototypes this summer, and then give the technology to FAA, which will test it at three UAS test sites (in Nevada, North Dakota, and Virginia).

Urban Air Mobility (UAM) would involve much larger craft than small drones, as envisioned by a growing number of small aircraft developers and potential operators. And its safety will have to meet higher standards, since these vehicles will be carrying passengers. In the October 2018 issue of ATC Reform News, I summarized a concept set forth by Airbus’s A3 operation in Silicon Valley. Their “Altiscope Blueprint” would have two sets of flight regimes: Basic Flight Rules and Managed Flight Rules, analogous to VFR and IFR in conventional airspace. The concept included the need for defined flight corridors in high-demand urban airspace, where MFR would apply, and operators would have to coordinate their flights with a traffic management service.

A variation on this approach was set forth at the Air Traffic Control Association technology conference in Atlantic City last month by EmbraerX, a subsidiary of Brazilian aircraft producer Embraer. Its Urban Air Traffic Management (UATM) system would build on the UTM concepts developed for drones, and would be carried out by authorized urban airspace service providers. As laid out in its new report, Flight Plan 2030, it calls for systems tailored to the specifics of each urban area where urban air mobility vehicles will operate. As with the Altiscope proposal, there would be defined flight corridors where craft such as the envisioned electric VTOLs would not impose undue noise or pose risks to people and structures on the ground or to other aircraft. Each of these specific city systems would be overseen by a single airspace service provider that could open and close routes, authorize flights, and manage the growth of the system. Flight Plan 2030 was developed by EmbraerX jointly with Harris Corp. and Atech. Harris is a major player in the FAA technology marketplace, while Atech is an Embraer subsidiary that has extensive experience with civil and military technology in Brazil.

Not to be left out, NASA is moving into the UAM field, as well. On June 10th it announced a contract with Deloitte to develop a concept of operations for Urban Air Mobility. During the past year Deloitte has released a series of article on “Elevating the Future of Mobility,” discussing the possibilities and problems that must be solved to realize this vision.

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But Will the Public Accept Urban Air Mobility?

While the 2019 Uber Elevate Summit (held this year in Washington, DC), was taking place, an errant helicopter pilot crashed his vehicle on the roof of a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, killing himself but not injuring anyone else. Summit attendees on June 12th opened their Washington Post that morning to a headline that read, “Chopper Crash Raises Old Question: How to Secure NYC’s Skies.” Well, that is one question. Another is whether Americans are ready for tens of thousands of small eVTOLs to be flying overhead and doing landings and takeoffs at office buildings, parking lots, and many other locations. I still remember the 1977 accident when a commercial helicopter atop the Pan Am building tipped over and threw a rotor blade, causing five deaths, and leading to a ban on rooftop heliports in New York City, which is still in effect.

Energized by the vision put forth by Uber Elevate and others—of fast, quiet, automated electric-powered passenger aircraft bypassing congested streets and highways—scores of companies are developing prototype urban air vehicles. There’s a lot of technology innovation, building on some of the designs proven to work with today’s small drones: distributed electric motors driving rotors or propellers, various kinds of control systems, lightweight designs to offset the weight of batteries, quick-change battery packs to permit speedy turn-arounds, etc.

German start-up Lilium is test-flying a five-seat electric VTOL with 36 electrically driven ducted fans on 12 tilting flaps, with more than one megawatt of battery power on board. The company plans to operate air service, in addition to building the aircraft. Airbus is testing two prototype eVTOL designs. Vahana is a tiltwing design with four props on each of its two tilting wings. A smaller prototype is its CityAirbus, powered by sets of four ducted coaxial rotors run by eight 100 kW electric motors.

Amidst huge amounts of hype (like the early days of autonomous vehicles in the automotive sector), some voices of caution are now being raised. At Aviation Week’s Urban Air Mobility 2019 conference in Atlanta in April, KPMG presented its assessment that UAM will never achieve low enough operating costs to be a mass-market alternative to surface transportation—but does hold potential as a premium service for business travelers. “The fundamental physics says it will never be the cheapest option because the motors are fighting gravity and not rolling along on the ground.” Nexa Capital gave a progress report on its research on UAM’s infrastructure needs. One preliminary finding is that some metro areas (e.g. Tokyo) already have hundreds of helipads, though many are not licensed for operation due to noise constraints.

At the ATCA conference in Atlantic City, Booz Allen reported on an assessment of weather conditions in 10 cities, as potential constraints on UAM operations. One finding from the 10 cities was that in Dallas, Denver, and New York “approximately half of the UAM operational day would potentially be impacted by weather.” And seasonally, “there is a high number of impacted hours in the winter and spring for most of the urban areas, especially the Northeast, Texas, and Denver urban areas.” A UC Berkeley consultant reported results of a survey of public perceptions of UAM, which revealed “general apprehension” about flying in adverse weather in small VTOLs.

These are early days. We don’t know the actual noise levels of the air vehicles that will prove to be technically and economically viable. We don’t know how or when urban air traffic management systems will be established, or how UAM services will be able to begin without such infrastructure. We also have no idea how comfortable people will be in flying in these vehicles. To be sure, there is a lot of potential here. But we are a long way from hundreds or thousands of eVTOLs carrying passengers throughout our urban areas.

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FAA’s Pathetic (and Dangerous) Civil Aviation Registry

The DOT Office of Inspector General on May 8th issued another in a series of reports on the continuing inadequacies of the FAA’s system that processes and maintains ownership information on about 300,000 commercial and private aircraft that are registered in the United States (and also on about 1.5 million “airmen”). The chairmen of both the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee last year requested OIG to do another audit, to see how FAA is doing on revamping this outdated system. Report AV2019052 tells the sorry tale—but misses one alarming point.

The audit report describes a system that looks like something out of the 1960s (or at best the 1970s). It resides on a mainframe computer at the FAA’s facility in Oklahoma City; its last upgrade was in 2008. The system is based on an obsolete programming language, “NATURAL,” that few people are competent to work with. Most of the processes for aircraft registration are paper-based, and “Even the processes that appear to be electronic to the user involve manual processing of information within the Registry.” If you are a would-be user of the information in the Registry and want real-time access, you can’t go online to find it. You have to go to Oklahoma City and get permission to sit at a terminal in FAA’s Public Documents Room. As Dave Barry would say, I’m not making any of this up.

Based on prior OIG audits, FAA is supposedly committed to modernizing this kludge, but the audit report finds that it has not yet even developed a plan for modernizing it. This includes not yet defining the requirements that the new system must meet. Hence, they have not made key decisions, “such as whether to include risk-based oversight as part of the new system, and which processes to automate.” Congress has mandated that FAA complete the modernization by October 2021, which looks doubtful, partly because current regulations on which the Registry is based don’t reflect current technology or business practices. OIG thinks FAA will have to conduct a formal rulemaking as part of the modernization project.

Which brings me to one glaring omission in the latest audit of the Registry. Back in March, former FAA Chief Counsel Sandy Murdock posted a piece on JDA Journal headlined, “Onalaska, TX Is Home to 1,000 Aircraft, and That’s a Problem.” It recounted an investigation by WFAA TV that found more than a thousand small private planes are registered as being based in Onalaska (pop 1,764), which lacks an airport. Apparently, the nominal owners of these planes are private trusts, which allow foreigners to register their planes in the United States anonymously for a mere $5 fee. Doing this is apparently legal; Murdock notes that “FAA allows foreign residents to register planes through a trustee.” He also quotes former FAA special agent Joe Gutheinz as having told WFAA, “If you’re a terrorist and you have a way of concealing your secret ownership of a plane in the United States, you’re going to do it.” Same if you’re a drug smuggler.

Now back to OIG. In its 2013 audit of the FAA Registry (FI-2013-101, June 27, 2013), its recommendation #2 was “Issue policy or regulations that clarify informational requirements for registration of aircraft owned by trusts for non-citizens.” OIG lists this recommendation as “closed” as of Aug. 18, 2015. And its new (2019) audit report makes no mention of this as a current problem of the Registry. Yet the WFAA investigation that Murdock summarized took place within the past year, suggesting that whatever FAA may have done in response to the 2013 recommendation has not solved the problem.

Murdock suggests that a real fix for this requires action by Congress, and includes a few caustic comments by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D, MA) on the absurdity of the situation. Since Congress is unlikely to act on this any time soon, it would be good to see the FAA Administrator change this absurd practice—and let Congress object if it can come up with any good reason why the status quo should not be changed.

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New Financing Approach for Airport Facility Public-Private Partnerships

During the past year, several major airports have used a long-term public-private partnership (P3) model to finance, build, and operate a major new facility. Los Angeles World Airports did two of these at LAX—an Automated People Mover (APM) and a Consolidated Rental Car Center (ConRAC). In this model, a team of investor-owned companies bids for the right to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain a new facility. Last month, Newark Liberty International Airport joined this trend, reaching financial close on a 35-year P3 for its own ConRAC project. But the financing on this one differs from the two at LAX.

The bidding for Newark’s ConRAC was won by a consortium of Conrac Solutions Capital, Related Fund Management, and Fengate Asset Management. Those firms provided the equity investment, with the balance of the $500 million project financed by a banking consortium led by MUFG. The two DBFOM projects at LAX are based on “availability payments” by LAWA over the life of the project. By contrast, the Newark ConRAC is financed based on the revenue generated by the project, in the form of a $7/day customer facility charge (with 2% annual inflation adjustment) for each car rented by any of the rental car companies using the facility. This is what is called a “revenue-risk” P3 model, in contrast to the availability-payment model used by LAWA.

This model puts the risk of declining rental car business on the P3 company, whereas the availability payment model puts that risk on the airport. This is a non-trivial risk, given the growth of ride-hailing companies and the idea of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), which seems to have begun cutting into airport parking revenues and might do the same to rental car volume in coming decades.

The Newark ConRAC will encompass 2.7 million sq. ft., with 2,925 public parking spaces and 3,380 rental car spaces, supporting 10 rental car brands. It will include retail functions and various servicing facilities for the rental car companies, as well as electric vehicle charging stations.

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FAA Belatedly Addresses Lack of Contingency Plans

On Sept. 26, 2014, a rogue employee at Chicago Center (ZAU) started a fire that disabled vital communications equipment, putting ZAU out of service for more than two weeks. As I wrote in ATC Reform News shortly thereafter, “This unprecedented incident illustrates that the U.S. ATC system does not have robust contingency plans to cope with a large-scale outage of this kind.” FAA had never planned for what to do if an entire en-route center went off-line.

Now, nearly five years later, FAA last month announced that it is rolling out contingency operating plans for hundreds of ATC facilities. FAA Deputy VP for Technical Operations Jeff McCoy told attendees at the ATCA conference in Atlantic City that, “We had never really talked about the concept of resiliency before the Chicago fire. If we thought about it at all, we thought of it as redundancy in equipment.” And that clearly was not enough. As I wrote at the time, most engineers learn early on, as I did, about designing critical systems so that they can “fail soft” rather than catastrophically—a concept also called “graceful degradation.”

FAA should have the ability for any Center to be able to take over seamlessly from a failed Center. A number of other ANSPs have provided for this. For example, Eurocontrol has two centers: the Brussels center’s back-up capability is in Paris and the MUAC center has a “mirror” operation in the same compound that can take over in the event of an outage In the U.K., when NATS consolidated its high-altitude centers into two all-new ones at Swanwick and Prestwick, it also created an independent contingency site that can take over 85% of the functions of either. Airservices Australia’s consolidation likewise involved creating two all-new centers, each of which can take over for the other, managing all Australian airspace (including oceanic).

I’m sure FAA’s Air Traffic Organization would like to do something like this. Indeed, various plans for large-scale facility consolidation have been around since the original NAS Plan in the 1980s. None has ever gone beyond conceptual plans. One reason, of course, is political: any large-scale consolidation would mean closing a number of obsolete centers, each of which is in some member of Congress’s district. The other reason is that there is no budget for the probable tens of billions of dollars that a serious consolidation effort would require. That kind of project is an example of what would be possible if the ATO had its own revenue stream from ATC user fees: long-term financing via revenue bonds, like airports use for new terminals and other major facilities. Corporatized ANSPs generally have investment-grade bond ratings, as other utilities do; the bond market would be happy to finance such modernization projects. But for now, politics has made that impossible in the land of free markets and private capital.

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Little Progress on Airport Crisis Management

On June 18th, Terminal 2 at the Honolulu International Airport was evacuated due to false reports of an active shooter. As in previous mass-panic-spread-by-social-media events at LAX, JFK, and Fort Lauderdale International, a similar scenario prevailed in Honolulu. The terminal eventually re-opened after more than four hours, leading to much-delayed departures for more than 30 flights.

Media reports described the situation as “pandemonium.” Hawaiinewsnow.com headlined its detailed story, “ ‘They had no plan’: Concerns raised over how airport handled security scare.” It quoted travelers saying things like:

  • “They were absolutely not ready for this situation.”
  • “They had no plan; they had nobody in charge.”
  • “They should have at least had somebody coming out, talking to us, letting us know what was going on.”

The panic started when two laptops overheated while going through the carry-on screening checkpoint. Smoke was coming out of one of the scanners, and the laptops “apparently made noise that resembled gunshots or fireworks,” according to officials. One passenger told Hawaiinewsnow.com that “A TSA agent started yelling ‘fire’ and said ‘Run, get out, there’s a fire.’ And everyone started stampeding each other, women being knocked down, kids.” Some ran through security into the sterile area, exacerbating the security problem.

After a half hour, the state DOT sent a Twitter message stating that “There is NO active shooter situation at the airport.” But it still took another three hours for TSA to finish its security sweep, authorizing Terminal 2’s re-opening.

Last Thursday, just as I was dropped off at the Sacramento, CA airport (SMF), Terminal A was being evacuated for some kind of security scare. At least in this case, there was no panic, but no information of any kind was presented to the air travelers other than—Get out and stay out until further notice. Fortunately, everyone was well-behaved, and we were let back in about 30 minutes later—with of course, numerous delays of arriving and departing flights. In this case, too, there was no information provided while we were all standing on the sidewalk in the heat, wondering how many hours this would take and whether we would be able to get home that day. (I did not: my late departure from SMF caused me to—just barely—miss my connection at DFW, leading to an unplanned overnight stay.) Standing around on the sidewalk, we heard repeated automated messages about SMF being a non-smoking facility, about the curb area being for loading and unloading only, etc. Since they had speakers outside, you’d think they could have given us some kind of information about how long the closure might last, for example.

I will conclude on a somewhat more positive note. On June 13th, the Fort Lauderdale airport put out a news release explaining the changes it has made in the wake of the January 2017 incident in which a gunman killed five people in the baggage claim area, leading to mass panic and law enforcement chaos. Here are the changes the airport itemized:

  • All flight information screens can now be used as emergency information signs;
  • Blast text messages can be sent to all cell phones in the airport—a kind of Amber Alert limited to airport property;
  • As of August, there will be 50 emergency call boxes in the terminals and rental car center so that people can report incidents directly to the airport’s emergency operations center;
  • The speaker system has been expanded to include the ramp area outside the terminals, as well as the sidewalk areas in front of each terminal; and,
  • All 18,000 airport employees have had an initial three-hour emergency-situation training course, and active-shooter drills will be done periodically.

Those are welcome steps. It’s unfortunate that nothing like that had been done at Honolulu or Sacramento. And what about LAX and JFK?

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News Notes

Aireon Certified by EASA as Surveillance Provider
The company that now operates global airspace surveillance via satellites—Aireon—on June 4th received safety certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It is now an authorized air navigation service provider (ANSP) offering “surveillance as a service” to ANSPs that subscribe to its space-based ADS-B tracking of aircraft in flight. EASA certification means that no further certification by individual European governments is needed, clearing the way for terrestrial ANSPs to subscribe.

French Airport Privatization Ups and Downs
The French constitutional council has ruled that French law allows for a referendum on the government’s plan to sell its 50.6% stake in Aeroports de Paris under a 70-year concession agreement. Holding such a referendum would require the consent of at least 20% of the members of parliament and 10% of the voting population, within the next nine months, which observers consider unlikely. Meanwhile, infrastructure company Eiffage is negotiating with Chinese joint-venture company CASIL Europe to acquire its 49.99% interest in the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport concession, the privatization of which is under review by the commercial court.

GPS Outage Would Cost U.S. Economy $1 Billion per Day
A comprehensive study commissioned by the National Institute of Standards & Technology, carried out by RTI International, estimated that GPS has generated $1.4 trillion in economic benefits since 1984. If an adverse event led to a system-wide GPS outage, the study estimated the economic cost at $1 billion per day. The largest dollar impacts would be on (1) telecommunications, (2) navigation, and (3) smartphone locational data. There is still no adopted plan for comprehensive GPS backup, but last month DOT Secretary Elaine Chao responded to a letter from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee stating that DOT continues to work with the departments of Defense and Homeland Security on such a plan, and expects some kind of “demonstration of technologies” toward the end of this year.

Contract Control Towers in Norway
Avinor, the ANSP of Norway, has announced a five-year contract with Spanish control tower company Saerco to operate the control towers at Alesund and Kristiansand airports. These will be the first contract towers in Norway, and makes that country the third one in Europe to contract out control towers (along with Spain and the U.K.). Saerco offered the best overall deal among four bidders, scoring highest on quality and price.

Senate Commerce Concerned Over Transfer of TSA Staff to Border Duty
The top leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee—Sen. Roger Wicker (R, MS) and Maria Cantwell (D, WA) last month sent a letter to TSA objecting to plans to shift 175 Federal Air Marshals and screeners to border duty. They also expressed concern over reports that DHS plans to transfer $232 million from TSA if it doesn’t obtain additional border funding from Congress, arguing that this could slow the deployment of new 3-D checkpoint scanners.

Greek Parliament Committee OKs Airport PPP
The committee on production and trade approved the government’s plan to use a long-term design/build/finance/operate/maintain PPP to develop and operate a new international airport at Kastelli. The government signed the 35-year concession agreement with the joint venture of GMR Airports and GEK Terna Group, subject to parliamentary OK. The company will hold 54.1% of the shares in the venture, with the government holding the balance.

Leesburg Remote Tower Gains a Home
The not-yet-certified remote tower at the airport in Leesburg, VA, has received a commitment from the Town Council and Loudon County to lease unoccupied office space as a permanent home for the remote tower center. Once the remote tower receives FAA certification, the town plans to apply to the FAA Contract Tower program to fund ongoing operating costs.

Inmarsat Acquired by Pension Funds
Satellite communications business Inmarsat has been acquired by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Apax Partners, and Warbug Pincus in a deal that values the company at $3.4 billion. Inmarsat is a key provider of aircraft communications services worldwide. Large pension funds have been investing in infrastructure over the past 15 years.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport for Sale
Scotland’s government is seeking a new owner for the Glasgow airport. It was one of the first airports in the U.K. to be privatized, but initial owner Infratil could not make a profit and sold the airport back to the government (for £1) in 2013. Since then, the government has subsidized it to the tune of $40 million. Passenger numbers and gross revenues have been increasing, so the government hopes a private buyer will be interested in taking it over.

Jersey Airport Remote Tower Certified
In a first for the United Kingdom, the new remote tower at Jersey Airport has been certified by EASA, under whose regulatory overview air traffic control is provided for the Channel Islands, including Jersey. This is the first remote tower to be certified for operation in the U.K., though others are under development, including for London City Airport.

Heathrow Airport Buying 3-D Checkpoint Scanners
Privately owned Heathrow Airport Ltd is investing $63.4 million in computed tomography (CT) scanners to replace convention carry-on baggage scanners. The new scanners will permit passengers to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags for checkpoint screening. Airport security in the U.K., as in most of Europe, is the responsibility of the airport, for both funding and operation. Many European airports contract with government-approved aviation security firms to operate passenger and baggage screening, under national government regulatory supervision.

Abolish TSA Behavior Detection, Says Chairman Thompson
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D, MS) told a June 4th hearing that TSA’s Behavior Detection program leads to profiling of some populations. “TSA has scaled back the scope of its Behavior Detection program, but the logical conclusion from years of evidence is clear: It is time to end the program entirely.” Thompson cited a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on a lack of adequate oversight of the program.

SDATS Certified as ATC Provider
Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS) has received certification from the Swedish Transport Agency as a provider of ATC services. Since January 1, 2019 SDATS has operated Sweden’s first remote tower center in Sundsvall, which now controls traffic there as well as the airports at Ornskoldsvik, Linkoping, and Scandinavian Mountains Airport.

Cross-Border ATC in Africa
Eighteen member countries receive ATC services from the Agency for Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), with airspace totaling 16.5 million sq. km., divided into six flight information regions (FIRs). ASECNA’s latest project is a study on bringing satellite navigation services to this airspace, based on Europe’s EGNOS system. Thales Alenia is leading the 18-month study, with support from the European GNSS Agency.

Airglades Cargo Airport Moving Closer to Privatization
An aggressive plan to convert a small general aviation airport south of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee into a large air cargo complex is compiling its final application to be privatized under the FAA program now called the Airport Investment Partnership Program. Hendry County, the airport’s owner, is fully supportive of the plan of Airglades International LLC to expand the small airport into Airglades International Airport, a U.S./Latin America air cargo complex, serving as a reliever to space-constrained Miami International, 100 miles to the south. The initial focus of the business plan is perishable (fruit and vegetable) imports to the United States from Latin America. The company is aiming to complete its final application to FAA by Sept. 30, 2019.

Fraport Increases Investment in Lima’s Airport
Fraport, the German airport company, has acquired an additional stake in the 40-year concession for the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. With its additional 10% stake, Fraport now owns 80.01% of the concession company. The current priority is a $1.5 billion expansion of the airport, including an additional runway and terminal building.

CLEAR Adds 30th Airport: Cincinnati
Airport biometrics company CLEAR announced on June 3rd that it has launched service at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). That brings its network to 30 large and medium U.S. airports. CLEAR members bypass regular screening lines and go directly to the checkpoint after verifying their identity using biometrics—via fingerprint or retina scan.

Jane’s 2019 ATC Awards
At the World ATM Congress in Madrid in March 2019, several ANSPs and technology companies received awards from UK aviation magazine Jane’s. Time-based separation at London Heathrow took first place under Enabling Technology, awarded to NATS, Leidos, and Heathrow Airport Ltd. Switzerland’s skyguide, along with Zurich Airport, Indra Navia, and Skysoft ATM won the Runway Award for an Advanced Runway Safety Improvement system. And Spain’s ENAIRE won the Service Provision award for developing the web-based Flow Tools Ecosystem to improve airspace efficiency in Spain.

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Quotable Quotes

“As long as there continues to be piloted aircraft providing urban air mobility flights as they are today, and we anticipate this will continue to be the case for some years to come, we must create an air traffic management solution that caters to the lowest common denominator of aircraft and avionic capabilities, but one that is designed to evolve over time.”
—David Rottblatt, EmbraerX, quoted in Bill Carey, “New Airspace Concepts Floated for ‘Nontraditional’ Entrants,” Aviation Week, June 3-16, 2019

“We want to avoid large groups of passengers on the public side of the airport, which is both a customer service and a security issue. Lines that stretch through the terminal, past the ticket counters, over the skybridges and into the parking garages compromise our ability to ensure public safety. Yet we see this scenario too often, even before our summer peak season has begun, including just this weekend.”
—Lancy Lyttle, quoted in Natalie Guevara, “Sea-Tac Airport Director Raises Security Concerns in Light of TSA Officer Shortage,” Seattle PI, May 22, 2019

“As identified in a recent report issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, TSA continues to struggle to provide consistent recruitment, retention, and training at federalized airports across the United States. . . . One possible solution and alternative is for more airports to consider participating in the Screening Partnership Program, otherwise known as SPP. This program offers airports the opportunity to move from a federalized to a privatized workforce that, while still overseen by TSA, is managed by private companies who may be better able to respond to staffing needs. Notably, during the month-long government shut-down earlier this year,
screeners at SPP airports continued to be paid, while federal TSA screeners were not.”
—Rep. Debbie Lesko (R, AZ), Transportation & Maritime Security Subcommittee hearing, May 21, 2019

“The airlines—which understandably are eager to try and ensure that investments in airports serve their own narrow interests rather than the broader needs of all travelers—claim that a modest [PFC] increase would stifle travel. It’s difficult to take the airlines’ arguments seriously, given their growing reliance on bag fees and ancillary charges. It’s worth noting that many airlines increased their bag fees by $5 last summer, while fighting vigorously against an additional $4 in PFC flexibility when Congress considered the FAA reauthorization bill. The difference between the two fees? One goes to the airlines’ bottom line and the other goes for airport upgrades.”
—Todd Hauptli, AAAE, “A Simple, Straightforward Way to Finance Necessary Airport Infrastructure Upgrades,” Aviation Daily, May 17, 2019

“You have plenty of liquidity in the market, so it is not surprising to observe strong [investor] interest in airports. I think the business fundamentals of the airport asset class makes it highly attractive to investors: traffic growth is expected to continue in the next 15 years, and airports offer stable cash-flow visibility, high operating margins, and cash yield. As there are limited opportunities, companies have to strive to get the high-quality assets.”
—Vincent Guillaume, BNP Paribas, quoted in Daniel Atzori & Ofelis Stroe, “European Airports Briefing: Key Takeouts,” Inspiratia Infrastructure, April 11, 2019

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