- Two U.S. airport privatizations moving forward
- IATA softens stance on privatization and corporatization
- Sen. Cruz urges new discussion on air traffic control reform
- GPS landing advances in Europe, not here
- Secondary barriers delayed again
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
Recent weeks have seen two important developments for privately financed and managed airports in the United States. First, on Aug. 19, FAA gave its final approval to the application from Hendry County, FL, to proceed with the conversion of their modest general aviation airport into an air cargo reliever airport for Miami International called Airglades International Airport. And on October 4, the city of St. Louis issued its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the long-term public-private partnership (P3) lease of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
The Airglades project has had a very long gestation period. Under the terms of the original federal Airport Privatization Pilot Program, general aviation airports may be either leased or sold. From the outset, the plan has been for the investor group to buy the airport and Hendry County officials have been fully supportive. Airglades International Airport (AIA) LLC has worked tirelessly with local officials, air cargo interests, aviation suppliers, and the Florida agricultural community to do the research establishing the business case for the project. In June, AIA announced commitments from major perishable commodity importers and letters of intent from construction and fuel-provider companies. Following FAA approval, AIA announced that it had selected AvPORTS as the new airport manager and that Star America Infrastructure Partners would be investing equity in the project.
In St. Louis, the 45-page RFQ invites firms or teams of firms to submit their qualifications to engage in a long-term P3 lease of St. Louis Lambert Airport. The RFQ notes that the airport is the 34th largest in the country by enplanements (7.6 million in 2018) and that Southwest is its largest carrier, with 61 percent of enplanements. Fitch Ratings, earlier this month, upgraded the airport’s bond rating to A, with a stable outlook. The RFQ also notes that airlines representing 80 percent of the airport’s traffic and 85 percent of landed weight have agreed to a “preliminary framework” agreement on some provisions to be included in the airport/airlines portion of the eventual long-term lease agreement. The final deal will require the approval of the city’s Board of Aldermen, Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and the FAA, in addition to the airlines.
The proposed P3 lease is still somewhat controversial in St. Louis. The mayor has long supported the idea, but the comptroller is outspokenly against. There continues to be talk of a public referendum on the deal, which the mayor says she will not oppose, although such a vote would not be binding on the aldermen.
Last month the city announced that one of the conditions the lessee would have to agree to is to offer jobs to all current Lambert employees. That led some to assume this would dissuade potential bidders, but as I told a St. Louis Business Journal reporter, this is not an unusual practice when a government enterprise is transferred to an investor-owned company for a fairly long period. One example is the long-term lease of existing toll roads such as the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road; it has also been used when municipal water and wastewater utilities are long-term leased. As in most such deals, employees who don’t wish to work for the P3 company will be given the opportunity to transfer to other city positions for which they are qualified.
While Airglades appears to be a done deal, there are a number of steps still to go for St. Louis. If this large medium-hub airport is successfully leased, it may open the door to more such transactions in what has been a very small U.S. airport public-private partnership lease market.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade group for airlines worldwide, issued a Resolution on Airport Privatization and Corporatization at its annual meeting in June 2018, which expressed concern that “introducing privatization in the monopoly airport sector has not, overall, resulted in the consumer benefits of improved efficiencies and reduced costs that have been realized from privatization in the competitive airline sector.” It went on to urge governments to “prioritize longer-term economic and social benefits” of airports “over short-term cash income that may be generated by any sale or concession,” while also urging “strong regulatory safeguards for any privatization or corporatization.”
Those words are somewhat harsher than the details provided in two supporting reports, also issued in June 2018, developed for IATA by international accounting/consulting firm Deloitte. The first is “Airport Ownership and Regulation,” which explains the various forms of organizational reform, including corporatization, sale, and long-term P3 (public-private partnership) lease concession. This document urges governments to assess this range of options and weigh the trade-offs involved, which is unobjectionable. It also calls for a competitive and transparent process for such organizational change, and also calls for centralized economic regulation of an airport’s market power.
While I agree that many airports are at least de-facto monopolies, the case for centralized economic regulation isn’t clear-cut. Competition is the best regulator, and a country’s competition laws (known as antitrust laws in the United States) are one alternative to outright economic regulation. That is the approach taken by Australia (which it calls “light-handed regulation”), nearly all of whose major airports operate under long-term P3 lease concessions and are de-facto monopolies. Airlines have railed against “grossly inflated” profits by those airports, but have yet to persuade the Competition and Consumer Commission that consumers have suffered any harm. The Australian Airports Investor Group has pointed out that these airports have invested more than $10 billion in airport improvements since 2002 and have more than that planned over the next 20 years.
IATA and Deloitte also issued a companion document last year that is more directly relevant to the U.S. situation. Since current law here calls for long-term P3 lease concessions rather than outright sale, “Balanced Concessions for the Airport Industry” is the more relevant document for this country. What the authors mean by “balanced” is that the interests of six sets of stakeholders should be taken into account in designing the structure of any such long-term concession: the government (which owns the airport), the concession company, the regulator, customers (defined here as airlines), consumers/passengers, and communities. That is far too many parties to be involved in the complex process of working out the details of a long-term concession.
This is also contrary to the global practice in long-term P3 concessions, which differ in several ways. My U.S. experience in this area comes largely from highway/toll road concessions, both in the United States and in Australia. The partnership embodied in these deals is between the asset owner (represented by the state department of transportation— DOT) and the concession company that is selected competitively. In both countries, whatever economic regulation is deemed necessary is carried out by the DOT via provisions in the long-term agreement, not by a centralized regulatory agency. This has enabled oversight of pricing that has permitted variable pricing on congestion-prone urban expressways and CPI-indexed price caps on long-distance toll roads. The report stresses that airport rates must be consistent with ICAO “cost-based” pricing principles but ignores more-recent ICAO documents such as Doc. 9082 and Doc. 9562, both of which explicitly permit forms of congestion pricing, such as are in place at London Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.
Consistent with IATA’s concern over “super-profits,” the report calls for profit-sharing, which is asking for trouble. A widely known defect in traditional public utility regulation is the information disparity between the regulator and the regulated utility. The latter knows far more about its business than the former, and can keep books in ways that minimize what shows up as “profit.” In the case of variably-priced express lane P3 projects in Texas and Virginia, the state DOTs negotiated revenue-sharing provisions based on gross revenue—a far more transparent factor than profit. To the extent that there are legitimate concerns about super-profits, that would be a better approach. But of course, as the Australian airport situation demonstrates, thus far no harm to passengers has been demonstrated from the profits being earned by that country’s P3-run airports.
Also not mentioned in the IATA/Deloitte concessions report is the potential of competitive entry. Actual competition among airports exists in some U.S. metro areas (Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Southeast Florida, Washington, DC) as well as in London and Paris. More recently, competition has emerged in Seattle via the startup of service at Paine Field. The same company that developed and operates the passenger terminal there, Propeller Airports, tried twice to create competition in Atlanta, but was defeated by the political clout of Delta Air Lines. Alas, there was silence from IATA when competitive entry in Atlanta was crushed by one of its member airlines.
To the surprise of many aviation observers, on Sept. 24, Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX) chaired a hearing of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee focused on reform of the air traffic control system. He began by reassuring the witnesses that he was not trying to revive former House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s 2018 nonprofit corporation proposal. Rather, he is attempting “to start a new conversation” with the idea of reaching a win-win for U.S. aviation and those who use it.
The response from the invited stakeholders was underwhelming. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) remained firm in their opposition to anything like corporatization or privatization. Airlines for America acknowledged that it lost the nonprofit corporation battle and is resigned to making the best of the status quo. Airline union ALPA and controllers’ union NATCA focused on a bill that would use Aviation Trust Fund money to keep the FAA fully operational in the event of future government shutdowns. But is unreliable funding really the only serious problem facing the air traffic control system?
In the spirit of starting a new conversation, with no preconditions, here are four suggestions that all aviation stakeholders should be able to agree on, unless they think the ATC status quo is just fine, apart from the risk of partial FAA shutdowns. I hope that’s not the case, but if any of them really think that, now is the time to tell us so.
First, as the world’s largest ATC system, ours should have the highest productivity level, given the inherent economies of scale in air traffic control. Yet our system’s productivity level is about 25 percent lower than that of the second-largest system, Nav Canada. Everyone whose planes use the ATC system helps to pay for it via user taxes, so everyone should have a stake in getting more bang for the buck.
Second, although all aviation continues to get safer over time thanks to better technology, better policies could also increase U.S. air safety. Yet our current organizational structure builds in self-regulation for the air traffic control system—i.e., the operation of ATC is carried out by the same organization that regulates its safety. All other modes of transportation have arm’s-length safety regulation—railroads, trucks, personal vehicles, ocean shipping, etc. And all other portions of aviation are regulated at arm’s-length by FAA: airports, pilots, mechanics, airframe and powerplant producers, etc. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has long called for arm’s-length safety regulation of ATC, and the USA is one of the last holdouts against this sensible reform.
Third, even if the FAA and its air traffic organization get protection from government shut-downs, its current funding of major modernizations comes out of its annual budget. No other major infrastructure provider operates this way—not electric utilities, water systems, railroads, or airports. They finance major capital modernization by issuing revenue bonds. If you wonder why ATC facility consolidation has been proposed repeatedly, dating back to the National Airspace System (NAS) Plan in the Reagan years, but has never happened, that is one key reason.
Fourth, the FAA’s procurement system continues to have trouble developing large, complex technology improvements anywhere close to on time and on budget (with a few notable exceptions). Part of the problem is that many of the best and brightest engineers and program managers can make far more in private industry than as FAA lifers. This often puts FAA (how shall I say this politely?) at the mercy of contractors who define the systems, have a big advantage in winning production contracts, and are experts at coming up with lucrative change orders. (My first job out of MIT was with an aerospace contractor.)
These are big-deal organizational and funding problems that the stakeholder organizations that take part in NextGen Advisory Committee deliberations should be well aware of. If we are to have the kind of conversation that Sen. Cruz has invited, a basic premise should be that the status quo is not acceptable, for reasons such as the above. If we can all agree on that, there may be some hope for the Cruz Conversation.
The pioneers who envisioned NextGen as a transformation of U.S. air traffic control, assumed that aircraft would be guided to airports by RNP precision approaches linked to all-weather GPS-based landing system, replacing the legacy instrument landing systems (ILSs). For reasons known only to itself, the FAA did not include the GPS-based landing systems (GBAS) in NextGen after all, though it did certify the Category 1 system developed and marketed by Honeywell. The handful of U.S. airports that have installed GBAS (including United hubs Houston and Newark) had to buy the systems themselves, rather than having FAA pay for and install the system, as it does for ILS.
Just to recap the benefits, GBAS is not subject to many constraints on ILS (such as signal interference, blind spots, etc.) and the need for a separate system on each and every runway end where precision approach is required. By contrast, Honeywell’s latest GBAS version can serve up to 48 runway ends from a single system. It offers the standard 3 degree ILS glideslope, but also offers a 3.2-degree glideslope, which reduces noise by keeping planes somewhat higher as they approach the runway. Nobody thinks there’s a business case for ripping out a current ILS set with many years of useful life remaining, but for airports with serious fog problems (San Francisco, Seattle) GBAS offers considerable potential, especially once more-precise Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 systems are certified, which is getting close to happening in the United States and Europe.
The same business-case points apply to most large European airports, as does the chicken-and-egg problem: airlines may not equip for GBAS if few airports have it, but airports hold back on installing it because not enough planes are equipped to use it. And here is where breakthroughs have taken place this year. First, GBAS producer Indra Navia and Airbus created the GBAS Alliance to address the chicken/egg problem. The Alliance has nearly two dozen members so far, including airports, airlines, and ANSPs. They are targeting key airports and ANSPs, while Airbus itself is ramping up production of GBAS-equipped planes. Indra’s NORMARC GBAS completed flight tests at Hong Kong last March, and the company says its home country, Norway, has used GPS-based landing systems at 17 airports for a number of years.
The other European breakthrough is that the ANSP of Germany, DFS, has increased its commitment to GBAS. As David Hughes reported in the latest issue of Air Traffic Management, DFS (which pioneered Cat. 1 GPS at Frankfurt in 2012) is now actively planning for Cat. 2 and Cat. 3 systems, with the first evaluations set for Bremen Airport. Besides Frankfurt, other airports on DFS’s list include Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, and the new Berlin airport (if it ever opens). DFS expects that by 2030 only 20 percent of its ILSs will still be in operation, mainly as backups in case of GPS outages.
ICAO recently approved GBAS Cat. 2/3 standards. Honeywell has developed a Cat. 2 modification to its Cat. 1 GBAS ground equipment so that planes equipped with its Smartpath Cat. 1 avionics can fly Cat. 2 approaches. As soon as FAA approves operating specifications for this, American, Delta, and United airliners will be able to fly Cat. 2 GBAS approaches at Houston and Newark. Honeywell has discussions under way on GBAS with JFK, LaGuardia, SFO, and Seattle, per Hughes’ article.
And the trend in aircraft equipage is steadily upward. At the ICAO GBAS/SBAS workshop in Seoul back in June, Boeing reported that more than 3,000 of its airliners now in service are GBAS-equipped, with 72 percent of those being delivered having that equipment. Prior to Airbus’s recent commitment to the GBAS Alliance, GBAS was available as an option on the A320, A330, A350, and A380.
These trends still leave the FAA on the sidelines, with airports needing GBAS capability required to purchase the systems themselves. All the while, the agency still styles itself as the world’s most advanced air navigation service provider. I don’t think so.
In last year’s FAA reauthorization bill, Congress required FAA—by Oct. 5, 2019—to come up with a regulation that all new passenger aircraft come equipped with secondary cockpit barriers. The idea is to provide a physical barrier to be used when the cockpit door must be opened in flight—e.g., for a cockpit crew member to use the forward lavatory. The deadline date has passed with only minimal FAA action. A week before a Sept. 26 hearing of the House Aviation Subcommittee, the agency announced that it had selected the 19 members of an aviation rulemaking committee to study the problem and recommend the content of the regulation.
That very tardy response drew a stinging retort from the Air Line Pilots Association at the hearing. “It’s our opinion that forming this advisory committee working group . . . is a waste of resources,” said ALPA first vice president Bob Fox. He cited “a blatant stall tactic promoted by special interests [read airlines],” noting that an aviation rulemaking committee had done this work back in 2009. Given that the regulatory language already exists, FAA could “issue tomorrow an interim final rule . . . to implement this law and take comments.”
At the hearing, Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell stated that they need to be sure that the regulation “provides, for all the carriers, the standards and performance requirements for the barrier” and that “these barriers have to cover everything from a 50-seat regional jet to a twin-aisle international carrier.” He noted that the addition of a barrier to the interior of a Part 121 aircraft required “a supplemental type certificate (STC), which requires approval from the FAA.”
What appears to be happening is that the airlines are trying to put off a modest cost increase in new aircraft for as long as possible. In my view, that is penny-wise and pound-foolish, because secondary barriers have been found to be highly cost-effective as a security improvement. The best work on this has been done by analysts Mark G. Stewart and John Mueller, and reported in journal articles and their excellent 2018 book, Are We Safe Enough? (Elsevier). You will find a summary of their analysis on pp. 112-119. Stewart and Mueller compare four possible improvements to cockpit security involving Federal Air Marshals (FAMs), hardened cockpit doors (these two are already in place), the armed-pilots program (FFDO), and secondary cockpit barriers. For each, they compare the annualized cost and the benefits in terms of reduced hijacking. Their cost estimate for secondary barriers is $5 million per year, and the benefit/cost ratio is a whopping 75. Their analysis also shows that FAMs are not at all cost-effective, having annual costs far exceeding a realistic estimate of benefits. The logical approach to improving the cost-effectiveness of these measures is to reduce the spending on FAMs and increase it on secondary barriers (and possibly FFDOs).
A far more sensible position for airlines to take would be to argue for this kind of approach: reducing the huge cost of the FAMs program (including the revenue forgone by seating FAMs in front-cabin seats) while approving a very modest cost increase in new airliners. How could something that rational be rejected out of hand?
San Diego Considering $4.7 Billion for Airport Transit Access
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) released a 60-page study last month on four alternatives for bringing rail transit to San Diego International. Most costly, at $3.9 to $4.7 billion, would be an underground people mover from a new “grand central” transit center built on a Navy site north of the airport. Least costly would be an extension of the existing trolley system (without a new transit center), estimated at $1.8 to $2.5 billion. The San Diego Union-Tribune helpfully pointed out that none of the cost estimates include the cost of relocating existing rail lines such as Amtrak and the Coaster commuter rail line.
FAA Completes ADS-B Ground System
With the installation of ADS-B capability in the control towers at Akron-Canton and Mansfield Lahm airports, FAA has completed the implementation of this NextGen capability in the system’s en-route centers, TRACONs, and towers, several months before all aircraft operating in controlled airspace are required to transmit real-time data using ADS-B. The project recently won the Collier Trophy, awarded by the National Aeronautic Association. Leadership was by Vinny Capezutto and Rocky Stone, backed strongly by Air Traffic Organization COO Russ Chew and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. Congratulations to all.
TSA Testing Tablet Enrollment in PreCheck
Last month TSA ran a several-week pilot program at BWI, using tablets by which passengers can apply for membership in PreCheck. Instead of having to go to an enrollment office (some of which are at airports, while many others are at inconvenient locations), the idea is to bring enrollment to potential customers. With the tablet, fingerprints can be taken on the spot, along with the required personal information.
New Investors in Paine Field Passenger Terminal
Propeller Airports, the developer/operator of the successful new terminal at Paine Field north of Seattle, has welcomed two equity investors in the project. Both Global Infrastructure Partners and the Washington State Investment Board have recently made equity investments in the project, the company announced on October 1st.
“Is It Fair to Shame Frequent Flyers for Their Environmental Impact? Is It Even Based on an Accurate Understanding of Science?”
That’s the title of an excellent piece by Forbes aviation contributor Dan Reed, posted on October 7. He points out that Europe has well-developed inter-city rail and ferry systems, mostly lacking in the United States. And he also cites data from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, which finds that driving between American cities is about twice as energy-intensive as flying.
ICAO Takes on GPS Interference, Need for Backup
Responding to pleas from airlines and others about GPS/GNSS jamming and spoofing, the International Civil Aviation Organization has released “An Urgent Need to Address Harmful Interferences to GNSS.” Its proposed mitigation plan calls on all states to protect GNSS frequencies via spectrum management, provide contingency infrastructure for near-term back-up, and develop alternative position, navigation, and timing (APNT) solutions for the longer term.
“How Best to Share New Highways in the Sky?”
That’s the title of an article in Air Traffic Management’s Issue 3, 2019 by Brent Skorup of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. It summarizes his forthcoming article in the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology. Skorup argues for auctioning urban air corridors for new urban mobility air vehicles in high-demand areas.
Airline Ancillary Fees Reach New Heights, but Air Travel Keeps Growing
In the ongoing battle over a proposed increase in the federal cap on Passenger Facility Charges, airlines estimate that an $8.50/passenger PFC would increase the cost of a family air trip by a demand-suppressing 5 percent. Yet the latest figures on the ancillary revenues major airlines are collecting reached new highs last year. IdeaWorks reported that such fees represent 18 percent of the average ticket cost on Southwest, 16 percent on American, 14 percent on United, and 12.5 percent on Delta. Yet demand has continued to increase on all four of them.
Who Will Get the Newark Slots Southwest is Vacating?
As of November, Southwest will cease serving Newark Liberty Airport, where it has been offering 20 departures per day. Those slots (at this capacity-controlled airport) are very attractive to carriers such as JetBlue and Spirit, which have only limited service at EWR. Needless to say, mega-carrier United (70 percent of EWR departures) would like some of those slots and would prefer the others to remain unoccupied, to reduce congestion. Airlines must submit slot requests to the FAA, which has no way to measure the economic value of the slots to individual airlines. Thus, whatever allocation it decides on will be, in some respects, arbitrary. This kind of situation cries out for market allocation, such as the runway pricing proposal made by Reason Foundation in 2007. The FAA cannot impose such a system, but if the airport operator (Port Authority of New York & New Jersey) requested, FAA could bless it, under the revised federal airport landing fee rules DOT promulgated in 2008.
New Zealand to Subsidize ADS-B Equipage
The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand has announced the availability of subsidies for general aviation aircraft, to reduce their cost of ADS-B equipage. Grants of up to $1,581 will be available for ADS-B/Out equipage, with another small grant available to add ADS-B/In equipment. Equipage with ADS-B/Out is required in all controlled airspace in New Zealand by December 2021. The subsidy is expected to be used for about 4,000 GA aircraft.
Major New Air Freight Facility at Ontario Airport
FedEx has begun construction of a 51-acre cargo facility at Ontario International Airport in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Phase 1 of the project is targeted to open in 2020, with a second phase to be developed after that. The overall project will triple its facilities for cargo sorting and aircraft maintenance.
Amsterdam Adopts NATS’ Intelligent Approach
The system that uses dynamic time-based separation for approaching flights at London Heathrow, developed by the ANSP of the UK—NATS—is being implemented at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, another major European hub airport. In its operation at LHR, Intelligent Approach permits two additional landings per hour under normal conditions and four more landings per hour when there are strong headwinds.
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Launches Skybridge to Mexico
The secondary airport serving the greater Phoenix area broke ground earlier this month on its Skybridge Project. The facility will house Mexican customs inspectors to pre-clear packages for immediate air shipment to Mexican customers. The project is a joint venture of Mexican and U.S. partners and will be located in the airport’s 350-acre business park.
Former Owner of Havana Airport Sues American Airlines
On Sept. 25, Jose Ramon Lopez Regueiro sued American and LATAM Airlines on grounds that he is the rightful owner of what is now Havana’s Jose Marti Airport. His father bought the airport from Pan American Airways in 1952 for $1.5 million, after which he improved the main runway and built the airport terminal. The airport was confiscated when Fidel Castro took over in 1959, with no compensation. Lopez Regueiro was six years old at the time; his father died in 1989. This case is one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which the Trump Administration in May decided to enforce.
Miami Officials Budget to Defend Against State Airport Takeover
In its 2019 session, the Florida legislature passed a bill abolishing the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, to be replaced by a new entity with a largely state-appointed board. Although that law has been declared unconstitutional as violating Miami-Dade County’s home-rule charter, the Miami-Dade County Commission last month budgeted $2 million to fight any potential state takeover attempts against either Miami International Airport or the Port of Miami.
San Francisco to Build 10-Mile Wall Against Sea-Level Rise
Last month San Francisco County Supervisors approved a $587 million project to build a higher sea wall around the entirety of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Construction will begin in 2025, following design and environmental studies. The wall will add five feet to the existing three-foot sea wall. Sea level in San Francisco Bay has risen 8 inches since 1900 and is projected to rise another foot by 2050. The project will be financed by airport revenue bonds, backed by airline fees and charges. Many other major airports are built adjacent to bays or the ocean, only a few feet above sea level; among them Boston, Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, Oakland, Reagan National, San Diego, San Juan, and Tampa.
Correction re Germany’s Coal Usage
In the article on CO2 and air travel in last month’s issue, I stated that Germany’s electric passenger trains are less green than presumed, since most of their electricity is generated by coal-burning power plants. I stand corrected. Reader Rob Britton provided data on German electricity power sources, with 35.4 percent coming from coal. And an article in the Sept. 28 issue of The Economist stated the figure as 29 percent. Suffice to say, only about one-third of German electricity now comes from coal-fired plants.
“In his Viewpoint, James Krebs’ statement that airlines must eliminate premium-class seating in five years is both risible and frighteningly totalitarian in nature. Krebs states with respect to premium seating that ‘[i]t is unconscionable that a few people should be allowed to pay extra . . . for this extra-polluting system.’ By that logic, all cars, homes, hotels, and offices would be the same size, and every other aspect of our lives would be equally regimented so that no one emits more carbon than anyone else. This is scary stuff. I don’t fly first-class, but I should have the freedom to choose to do so. The problem with the climate-change debate is the absence of objective cost/benefit analysis.”
—Steven Meyers, letter to the editor, Aviation Week, Sept. 30-Oct. 13, 2019
“The point of this hearing today is to explore the tangible benefit of what a new, reformed [ATC] system should contain: better flight plan management for general aviation; more direct routes for commercial flights; lower fuel consumption and emissions, which will lower costs for everyone; and more certainty for those who do the hard work of running the system. . . . Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel on reform. Sixty-four other countries, including our neighbor to the North, have reformed their Air Traffic Control systems, and we can learn from these countries about what has worked and what should be avoided in developing reforms that reap all of the benefits without the pitfalls. . . . Today’s hearing isn’t about a specific proposal or about rehashing old fights. It’s about resetting the conversation. There is a deal to be had here, a win-win for all of the stakeholders and the American people.”
—Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX), opening statement at hearing on “Improving Air Traffic Control for the American People: Examining the Current System,” Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, Sept. 24, 2019
“There are limitations to what we can do with batteries. If you took the best battery today and made it five times more efficient and you wanted to make an [all-electric] airliner the size of an A320 jet, it would weigh six times as much as the aircraft of today, without even putting any passengers or cargo on board. The [UAM prototype] vehicles that are out there have a range of about 30 miles. Trying to get more than 30 minutes to an hour out of a vehicle that size is very challenging today. And the battery technology is going to have to come along much further if we are going to have 100 percent electric vehicles.”
—Amanda Simpson, Airbus VP, Research and Technology, in Sandy Murdock, “EAA AirVentures Points Way to an Electrifying Future,” Managing the Skies, September-October 2019