Aviation Policy News: Airport Privatization, Runway Slots, Drones Near Planes, and More
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Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: Airport Privatization, Runway Slots, Drones Near Planes, and More

St. Louis gets 18 responses on possible airport lease, haggling over Heathrow's new runway slots, drones coming dangerously close to planes, and more.

In this issue:

St. Louis Gets 18 Responses on Airport P3 Lease  

To the surprise of just about everyone, the city of St. Louis received responses to its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from 18 teams, setting forth their qualifications to lease, manage, and improve Lambert St. Louis International Airport. That robust response suggests significant interest on the part of infrastructure investment funds, pension funds, and global airport companies in breaking into the U.S. airport market.

Responders to the RFQ included four of the world’s five largest (by revenue) global airport companies: Aena Aeropuertos (Spain), Aeroports de Paris (France), Vinci Airports (France), and Fraport (Germany). Only Ferrovial, the primary shareholder in Heathrow Airport Holdings, declined to participate. Others with major airports experience include Atlantia (Italy), CAAP (Argentina), Manchester Airports Group (U.K.), ASUR (Mexico), Copenhagen Airports International (Denmark), Royal Schiphol Group (Netherlands), and Vantage Airport Group (Canada).

Infrastructure investment funds are also well-represented. Among these are AMP Capital, Blackstone Infrastructure Partners, Global Infrastructure Partners, IFM Investors, Oaktree Transportation Investment Fund, OMERS Infrastructure, and OTTP. IFM, OMERS, and OTTP invest in infrastructure worldwide on behalf of public pension funds.

The city’s working group on the public-private partnership (P3) airport lease will review the 18 sets of qualifications over the next month or two, with the aim of selecting a shortlist of the best-qualified teams. The groups on the shortlist will be invited to submit formal proposals explaining their plans for the airport, how they would manage and improve it, any proposed differences with the agreement on fees and charges worked out by the city with Lambert’s airlines, what they are prepared to pay for the lease, and how they would pay (all up-front, spread over time, with or without some form of revenue sharing, etc.).

Under the terms of the federal Airport Investment Partnership Program, a participating airport owner may receive lease payments and use them for non-airport purposes (which is otherwise prohibited by FAA grant agreements), consistent with the shift from the traditional U.S. nonprofit airport model to the investor-funded for-profit model that has become common globally.

St. Louis has contemplated receiving $1 billion or more for a long-term lease of the airport, and recent airport transactions around the world have seen valuations based on 15-to-20 times an airport’s earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation & amortization (EBITDA). Since U.S. tax law requires an airport’s existing tax-exempt bonds to be paid off as part of such a lease, the net proceeds would be the gross value minus the amount of outstanding bonds.

There is still some local opposition to leasing Lambert, so it is not certain the transaction will take place. But if it does, it could well serve as a door-opener to further private investment in U.S. airports.

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Space-Based ADS-B Has Reduced Separations on the North Atlantic

One of the most important presentations at the Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference in Washington, DC, last month was titled, “ADS-B Over the North Atlantic: Aviation’s Quiet Revolution.” The presenters were Martin Donnan of NATS, Ben Girard of Nav Canada, and Vinnie Capezutto of Aireon, the global space-based ADS-B provider. The key takeaway is that the initial performance of the system across the North Atlantic is even better than projections.

One major milestone is reduced separations. Back in March longitudinal (nose to tail) separations went from 40 nm down to 14-17 nm. And in October, lateral (wingtip to wingtip) separations were reduced from 23 nm to 15-19 nm. These changes are made possible by the near-real-time surveillance provided by space-based ADS-B, with radar-like position information in place of traditional “procedural” separation. What this means is that more tracks across the North Atlantic are available, since planes can fly closer together. And that means a much larger percentage of flights can get to their preferred altitudes (generally with the best tailwinds if going east or the least headwinds going west). And this means, other things being equal, saving time and fuel, which also results in lower emissions. Since the start of these trials, over 4,400 flights have gotten more fuel-efficient altitudes and 3,400 have been able to fly more direct routes.

There are also important safety benefits. In their presentations, Donnan and Gerard provided figures on significant reductions in “large height deviations” in May-Sept. 2019, compared with the same period in 2018. Girard noted that the system also provides “very sophisticated safety nets” in case something goes wrong. Controllers learn about issues almost instantly and are able to work with the flight crews, for example, to guide them to an alternate airport. And if a plane goes down, the Aireon ALERTS system provides position and track data to assist search and rescue crews.

Environmental benefits are also in prospect. NATS estimates that airlines could save 880 to 1,400 pounds of fuel per Atlantic crossing when space-based oceanic ADS-B has become routine and ubiquitous. Nav Canada estimates eventual North Atlantic fuel savings of $100 million per year. Aviation Week’s Tony Osborne suggests that such fuel savings could largely offset Aireon’s fees in the coming years.

In his presentation and answers to questions, Aireon’s Vinnie Capezutto said that in the near future 13 ANSPs will be using space-based ADS-B, rather than just NATS and Nav Canada. He also noted that the system is generating reams of data and that Aireon, along with partner ANSPs, is looking into possible uses, including traffic flow management.

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Who Should Get Heathrow’s New Slots?

A major controversy is taking place in Britain over the large capacity increase that will be created by the addition of a third runway to the country’s largest airport, London Heathrow (LHR). Incumbent airlines are split, with dominant International Airlines Group (British Airways and its partner airlines, holding 57 percent of all current slots) expecting the lion’s share of the 350 additional slots the new runway will provide. The second-largest carrier, Virgin Atlantic (with a total of 40 current slots, including its partners), is making a strong push to get between 120 and 160 slots thanks to the new runway.

As is fairly well-known, slots are currently allocated along the lines of the “Worldwide Slot Guidelines” promulgated by airline trade group IATA in the 1970s, which was prior to airline deregulation and also prior to the privatization of most state-owned airlines (such as British Airways). Those slot rules heavily favor incumbents; Virgin says the current rules would give it a mere 10 to 15 more, while BA/IAG would get 100, further reinforcing its dominance.

For decades, economists have criticized traditional slot allocation rules as a kind of central planning. Rather than inherently subjective and arbitrary administrative allocation, economists have argued for a market-based approach via either variable runway pricing or full-fledged slot auctions. I have argued elsewhere that time-of-day runway pricing has a number of advantages over slot auctions, but that might be less feasible near-term than shifting to slot auctions for the expanded Heathrow. The U.K. regulator—the CAA—has suggested that the additional LHR runway offers significant potential benefits for increased airline competition, which would benefit air travelers. It has also noted that once Brexit takes place, the U.K. will no longer have to comply with EU slot regulations, which are based on the IATA model.

One question that tends to get lost in these discussions is where airport slots come from. Airlines do nothing to create them (though they end up paying for them over the many years that they make use of them, via runway charges). Airport capacity to serve airlines results from the major investments that airports make, supplemented by the investments of air navigation service providers (ANSPs), in this case NATS, the U.K. provider. This makes the idea that airlines “own” runway slots an absurdity (and I note that the U.S. DOT has never accepted such claims).

Since airports create the runway capacity, whatever market-based mechanism is used to allocate the use of that capacity should have the airports receive the revenues, either from time-limited slot auctions or ongoing runway (landing and takeoff) charges.

If the current administrative slot allocation system for LHR is scrapped, one worry will be whether the biggest carriers will have the greatest willingness (and ability) to pay, and will still dominate the airport. All kinds of ideas will be presented for dividing slots into different categories, such as legacy and non-incumbent carriers, international and domestic service, and auctioning subsets of slots to each. This kind of process still involves a troubling degree of central planning, assuming that the CAA knows best about a very dynamic industry. Moreover, a basic assumption is that the auctions would apply only to the new runway’s capacity, rather than applying to 100 percent of LHR’s capacity. But the latter option is open to the post-Brexit U.K., no longer governed by EU regulations.

If all slots were to be allocated by auction, legacy carriers would raise holy hell about the large investments they have made at LHR. There is validity to that concern, so as part of the transition, incumbents’ slots should be given a fixed duration (perhaps 15 years), after which they, too, would be auctioned.

But perhaps a less-disruptive way to transition to market-based allocation would be to reform LHR’s existing time-of-day runway pricing. This could be done all at once (a “big bang” approach). The process would involve periodic pricing/scheduling meetings between airlines and the airport, as developed in a series of simulation games involving airline schedulers and airport officials, using New York LaGuardia Airport as the case in point. The exercises were developed as a project of the FAA National Center for Excellence in Aviation Operations (NEXTOR) in 2004-2005. Here is how it would work: Periodically, the airport’s pricing board would set proposed prices for each runway’s landings and takeoffs at various times of day, to go into effect within 90 to 120 days. The airlines would then adjust their schedules in response to the prices and submit the revised schedules to the board. In turn, the board would adjust the prices to reduce demand at over-subscribed times. The process would continue for several iterations to arrive at the prices and schedules that would be implemented for the forthcoming operating period. (Details are provided in a paper by George Donohue and Karla Hoffman of George Mason University.)

This process would be open to all airlines, incumbent and newcomers alike. LHR’s current pricing differentials for noise could be included, as could emissions charges. It would be entirely market-based, avoiding all the politics and arbitrariness of administrative allocation. It would end the fiction of airlines “owning” slots in perpetuity. And it would be continuously open to new entrants, in a market-based discovery process. The post-Brexit U.K. has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to depart from the airport slots status quo. Will LHR and the CAA be willing to consider this approach?

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Remote Towers Advancing Further…Overseas

The concept of remote towers (RT) has been around for more than a decade, with promising work from FAA’s research center in Atlantic City published in 2007. But European companies have turned the idea into reality, while FAA still struggles to certify the first two U.S. remote towers, funded and developed with state and private funding.

The newest RT to go live is at the Santa Cruz Airbase in Brazil. Last month Austria’s Frequentis completed the installation of that facility, the first of its kind in South America. Like other remote towers, this one uses an array of cameras and other surveillance equipment to provide panoramic views of the airfield and adjacent airspace for controllers in a ground-based control room. This avoids the much larger capital and operating costs of a conventional tall building and, thanks to infra-red cameras that can see through rain and fog, provides better surveillance than a conventional tower.

The benefits don’t stop there. Germany and Scandinavia are pioneering the control of multiple airports from a single remote tower center (RTC). Germany’s first RTC, in Leipzig, became operational in January, initially controlling traffic at the Saarbrücken Airport 240 nm away. Control of several other airports will be added in the near future, reports DFS, the German ANSP. The Leipzig RTC is using Frequentis technology.

Saab developed the world’s first operational RTC several years ago at Sundsvall, Sweden. It went live controlling traffic at Ornskoldsvik Airport in 2015 and now controls traffic at two other airports. Next month the Sundsvall RTC will add another airport: Scandinavian Mountains Airport, the world’s first airport built to be served by a remote tower center. It is 186 miles from Sundsvall.

Norway has even bigger RTC plans. Avinor, the Norwegian ANSP, contracted with Kongsberg Defense and Indra Navia to develop its center, initially located in the terminal at Bodo but to be relocated to a new RTC center that is under construction a few miles away. That center is designed to control 15 small Norwegian airports. The first of these is at Rost, which began receiving control services from Bodo last month. Another country looking seriously at implementing remote towers in Scotland. ANSP Highlands and Islands (HIAL) is considering an RTC to serve all 11 of its airports.

There are obvious applications for remote towers in the United States, including RTCs controlling a number of small airports that have or are eligible for towers under the FAA Contract Tower Program. There would be real economies of scale in taking this approach, especially since a growing number of the existing contract towers are aging and will need to be replaced in the foreseeable future. So I was dismayed when the COO of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, Teri Bristol, in a fireside chat during the ATCA Annual, said she does not think FAA will ever buy RTs for small airports. And she suggested that RTs will likely be a better fit for mid-size airports.

At the ATCA Annual, I talked with people at several of the RT provider booths. One told me that it is not currently possible to operate a multi-airport RTC in the United States since controllers cannot be certified for more than one airport. If that is the case, this would have to be changed before that kind of RT program could be implemented here.

Neither of the non-FAA-funded RT projects—one at Leesburg, VA, and the other at Fort Collins, CO—has been certified yet, after years of work by Saab Sensis at the former and Searidge at the latter. An announcement that Allegiant Air would return to Fort Collins in November (due to the provision of tower services) proved to be premature. Sources suggest that neither project is close to certification, due to FAA’s extremely cautious approach.

But I retain a bit of optimism due to a recent development that was much-discussed at ATCA Annual. Frequentis has announced a joint venture agreement with Raytheon to pursue the U.S. remote tower market. Raytheon is one of FAA’s primary suppliers of new technology, and very clearly knows its way around. If this joint venture comes up with a compelling case for large-scale use of RTs, it may have the clout and credibility to make things happen.

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Drones and Airports: No Solutions Yet

The potential safety and security threat from small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) first came to public attention last winter, when deliberate drone intrusions twice led to shutdowns of London Gatwick Airport and a subsequent intrusion by a larger UAS led to a shutdown of London Heathrow. A threatened attempt to deliberately shut down Heathrow in July was thwarted by pre-emptive arrests of a number of the group’s leaders (who had brazenly announced their campaign in advance). Military anti-drone equipment (of unspecified nature) was briefly installed at Gatwick and it appears that drone-detection equipment of some sort has been installed at both airports.

The first U.S. airport to be shut down over a drone threat was Newark Liberty, which was closed for 90 minutes in late January after two pilots reported a drone sighting over Teterboro, 17 miles from EWR. The extent of drone intrusion into airport airspace is not really known since there is no established detection or reporting system on this subject. Los Angeles World Airports CEO Deborah Flint, at an Oct. 2 news conference, said that since LAX began tracking such drone activity in April 2016 there have been 205 sightings, “many within 300 feet of aircraft reporting them.”

Actually, the intrusions are likely far worse than that. Ryan J. Wallace and colleagues at Embry-Riddle University have been researching sUAS intrusions into airport airspace. In one published paper, they reported on a 13-day sampling using a DJI AeroScope in the Daytona Beach, FL area, which includes 10 airfields. Of 190 sUAS observations, 184 were within 5 nm of an airport, and 126 of those were within the Daytona Beach Airport Class B surface area. They concluded that “more than 1 in 5 sUAS flights presented an unmitigated risk to nearby manned aviation operations.” In another study using the same equipment and methodology, this time in the Tampa, Florida area, out of 320 sUAS sightings over a 19-day period, they identified “93 potential violations of 14 CFR 107 regulations, including controlled airspace breaches, exceeding maximum flight altitudes, and flight outside of daylight or civil twilight hours.” They concluded that the UAS activity “posed potential conflicts with a runway visual approach, created a collision hazard with three heliports, and heightened risk for visual flight rules operations underneath a controlled airspace shelf.” And note that in both Daytona Beach and Tampa, these numbers reflect a period of less than two weeks. Scaled up to an annual basis, these figures are terrifying—and this is for drone intrusions presumably without hostile intent.

Legal authority and organizational responsibility for tracking drones near airports are unclear, and even if they are routinely tracked, preventing drone intrusions is a very complex problem. Thus, two October developments are worth noting. First, the U.S./Canada Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports released its final report on October 2. It recommended that the FAA and Transport Canada, respectively, should devise UAS detection system standards and provide federal funding assistance to airports for implementing such systems. Second, it recommended that the U.S. and Canadian governments “extend authority to engage in UAS interdiction—kinetic or electronic—to trained state and local law enforcement.” And this should be tested in a pilot program in each country, with the U.S. pilot developed by the Department of Justice in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security.

Fifteen days later FAA’s Deputy Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials Safety, Angela Stubblefield, told an FAA Drone Advisory Committee meeting that a federal strategy for protecting airports from drones is complete and awaiting final approval from the heads of FAA, DHS, DOJ, and TSA. It would have Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) use DoD equipment to interdict errant drones. That approach was criticized by Rep. Sam Graves (R, MO) and Mike Rogers (R, AL) in a Nov. 15 letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. The letter says that the anti-drone provisions included in last year’s FAA reauthorization bill do not allow DHS or DOJ to take such actions with respect to airports. The letter says that to “hastily hand over authority to shoot down drones to an agency that doesn’t have the critical knowledge or experience of how our airspace system functions is irresponsible and dangerous.”

So don’t hold your breath for a speedy resolution of the airport drone problem.

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News Notes

Central America Signs Up for Space-Based ADS-B
Six countries in Central America receive their ATC services via a single ANSP called Cocesna. That organization last month announced an agreement with Aireon to provide space-based ADS-B services in the Central American flight information region. That flight information region (FIR) encompasses one million square miles of terrestrial and oceanic airspace (both Caribbean and Pacific). Member countries are Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Cocesna plans to start space-based surveillance in third-quarter 2020.

Aeroports de Paris Enters U.S. Airports Market
Two companies within Groupe ADP—Merchant Aviation and ADP Ingenierie—have won several U.S. airport contracts. The team has won a contract for strategic planning and design of the revamped Terminal 8 (American Airlines) at JFK International. It has also won two on-call airport planning contracts, one with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey covering all its airports, and another with Denver International Airport.

Gatwick Moving Forward with Secondary Runway
After receiving “largely positive” responses from local consultation events, Gatwick Airport, in August, outlined a five-year $1.34 billion capital investment program, including expanding Pier 6 and main runway improvements. It also submitted a formal notice saying it will apply for development consent for improvements to its northern runway (now used as a taxiway) so that it can be used to supplement the capacity of the main runway, for departures only, by the mid-2020s.

Global Air Traffic Controllers Alliance
At the ATCA Annual meeting, I learned of the formation, in 2018, of an alliance of ATC unions from developed countries. Initial members are from controllers’ unions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I missed the panel presented by the Alliance, but did appreciate the panel on collaboration featuring Paul Rinaldi (U.S.), Peter Duffy (Canada), and Paul Winstanley (U.K.). This strikes me as a positive development, enabling controllers to learn from their counterparts in other countries.

TSA to Limit PreCheck Lanes to Members
TSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator told a House Homeland Security subcommittee meeting that the agency is “well on its way” to meeting an April 2020 deadline to restrict PreCheck lanes to actual members of the program. Patricia Cogswell added that about 75 percent of the airports with TSA presence should be compliant with the mandate “soon.” Rep. John Katko (R, NY), who authored the provision, warned that lawmakers would not be flexible about 100 percent compliance by next April, saying the compliance date is not “optional.” In some circumstances, TSA has been allowing some travelers who have been sniffed by dogs to use the PreCheck lanes during busy periods, a practice that must cease by next April. TSA also plans to contract with third-party companies to operate more PreCheck enrollment centers at airports.

San Diego Transit Hub Procurement Soon?
Inframation News reported last month that San Diego and Navy officials recently signed an agreement that would permit development of a “central mobility hub” on Navy property known as the NAVWAR site. Redevelopment of the site would include housing, office, and retail uses, generating revenue to help pay for the transit hub. The most-costly feature of the project would be a mile-long tunnel beneath the airport for a people mover connecting the transit hub to the airport terminals.

DOT Announces Contracts for GPS Backup
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the award of contracts totaling $2.5 million to 11 companies to demonstrate technologies that could be used to back up positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services provided by GPS in the event of outages. Several proposed ways to use eLoran, while others discussed other kinds of backup. The contracts were announced by Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Deputy Asst. Secretary for Research and Technology.

Athens Airport Gets 10 Expressions of Interest
Ten sets of airport companies and infrastructure funds have expressed interest in acquiring a 30 percent stake in Athens International Airport. Its current ownership is 40 percent by private AviAlliance, 30 percent by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, 25 percent by the Greek government, and 5 percent by a local developer. On offer is HRADF’s 30 percent stake. EOI submittals included AviAlliance, ADP Groupe, Vinci Airports, Ferrovial/Ardian, and Macquarie. Based on the airport’s latest financial results, the 30 percent stake is estimated to be worth between $1.65 and $2.2 billion.

SEC Investigating Atlanta Airport’s Finances
The Securities & Exchange Commission has issued a five-point subpoena to the city of Atlanta, requesting information related to potential revenue diversion (in violation of FAA grant agreements) and possible misrepresentations of airport spending in the financial information provided to investors in the airport’s bonds. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a securities lawyer saying, “If you are violating federal law and don’t disclose it, that can be prosecuted as a securities law violation.”

Bill Would Provide FAA Shutdown Funding
Companion bills in the House and Senate would allow the FAA to tap funds in the Airport & Airways Trust fund to keep all personnel on duty and being paid in the event of future government shutdowns. As of last month, the Aviation Funding Stability Act had 260 cosponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate. The bipartisan effort is being led in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D, OR) and in the Senate by Sen. Jerry Moran (R, KS).

U.S. Drone Package Deliveries Begin
FAA has approved package delivery by two companies, on a very limited basis. On Oct. 1, UPS announced that a subsidiary had received FAA Part 135 certification to operate deliveries via UAS nationwide, in a service called Flight Forward. It plans to build a network of ground-based detect-and-avoid technology to protect the drones from collisions. Separately, a pilot program operated by Wing in cooperation with FedEx and Virginia Tech made package deliveries to three people’s yards in Christiansburg, VA on October 18th.

Denver Picks New Contractor for Great Hall
Subject to City Council approval, Denver International Airport selected Stantec as lead designer and Hensel Phelps as construction manager and general contractor for the Great Hall project. The airport previously canceled its P3 procurement with Great Hall Partners and is still negotiating the termination payment. The new procurement is using the construction-manager-at-risk (CMAR) method.

House Bill Would Mandate Risk-Based Covert Testing
In response to reports by the Government Accountability Office and the DHS Inspector General about poor performance by TSA’s red-teams of covert testers, the House Homeland Security Committee is moving forward with a bill (HR 3469) to require TSA to develop a more risk-based model for covert testing of airport screening. The bill has been championed by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D, MS).

Privacy Protection for Business Jets
In response to pleas from NBAA, FAA is finalizing a program in which business aircraft operating at higher altitudes and using the 1090 MHz frequency for ADS-B will be able to opt-out of having their real-time flight data accessible to non-government ADS-B ground receivers, such as those operated worldwide by FlightAware and other organizations. Under the Privacy ICAO Address (PIA) program, FAA will set up a means by which U.S. aircraft operators can request that their real-time position and identification remain private. They will receive a temporary ICAO address that is not linked to their FAA registration information. No information was provided on how much this will cost FAA and what it will charge for the service.

London Gatwick Gets Cross-Border Arrivals Management
London’s second-busiest airport will now benefit from a program that NATS, the United Kingdom’s ANSP, has provided for several years at London Heathrow.  In cooperation with Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Center, flights heading for LHR can be slowed down en-route to avoid having to circle and waste fuel once they reach UK airspace. The concept is called cross-border arrivals management (XMAN) and is now being expanded to LGW. Besides LHR, it is also operational at Amsterdam Schiphol and is planned for Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

India Plans More Airport Privatizations
At the “Smart Safe Secure Skies” conference last month, the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Usha Padhee, said that the government plans to privatize more airports, to enable them to handle the rapid growth of commercial aviation in India. Ms Padhee said, “Government is, for the first time, talking about disinvestment of Air India . . . . We have already privatized some airports and more are in line. Three have been awarded and a few more are in line. It is a continuous trend.”

FlightAware Provides Better Arrival Time Data to Frankfurt Airport
To help the airport’s ground staff know when each incoming airliner will arrive at its gate, Fraport is now using a system developed and operated by FlightAware. The U.S company provides a worldwide flight tracking service, using a private network of ADS-B ground stations in 195 countries as well as data from Aireon’s global space-based ADS-B tracking. The system uses real-time flight data to predict landing time, gate arrival, departure times, and arrival/departure capacity.

Port Authority Considering Takeover of Atlantic City Airport
Consulting firm Leigh Fisher is evaluating the pros and cons of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey taking over the Atlantic City International Airport. The airport is currently owned by the South Jersey Transportation Authority, but operated by the Port Authority. Its only air carrier is Spirit Airlines.

ADS-B Equipage Mandate in Canada Delayed
Transport Canada has announced a delay in the ADS-B equipage deadline for general aviation aircraft. The previous deadline for transmitters capable of being read by Aireon satellite transponders for aircraft in Class A airspace (above 18,000 ft.) was Feb. 25, 2021, but no new date has been announced. A second deadline, for Class B airspace (12,500 ft. to 18,000 ft.) which was Jan. 27, 2022, was also withdrawn with no new deadline yet announced.

Two More French Airports to Be Privatized
France’s civil aviation ministry has announced planned concessions for two airports in western France: Nantes-Atlantique and Saint-Nazaire Montoire. Both projects will include modernization efforts, and the DBFOM concessions are expected to be 30 to 40 years in duration. Qualifications from potential bidders are due by Jan. 7, 2020.

New Investors Buy 70 percent Stake in Australia’s Fastest-Growing Airport
Hobart Airport in Tasmania has two new shareholders. Queensland Investment Corporation and Royal Schiphol Group (Netherlands) bought out previous investors Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets and Tasplan Super (a Tasmanian pension fund). The consortium acquired 50.1 percent from MIRA and another 19.9 percent from Tasplan Super, which retains the balance of 30 percent of the shares. The consortium plans to expand terminal capacity so the airport can start serving international, as well as domestic, flights. MIRA also recently acquired UK’s Farnborough Airport.

Dubai Extends ANSP Contract with Serco Middle East
Serco, a long-standing provider of ATC services under contract in the Middle East, has extended its joint collaboration contract with the Dubai Air Navigation Services for another two years. The primary focus of the contract is ATC for Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport.

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Quotable Quotes

“Aviation is held back by its governing regulations, dating as they do from 1944, in terms of the Chicago Convention, and pre-liberalization for many of the procedures that apply at big and busy airports. Wholesale change to the way aviation operates is impossible given the entrenched global system and dominant carriers like IAG wielding their power over captured regulators. But Heathrow expansion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and practical reforms can bring meaningful change. Ironically, it might also be the silver lining in the Brexit dark clouds. If Britain does leave the EU, it will be able to change the rules that apply.”
—Andrew Charlton, “Heathrow’s Third Runway Slot Machine: Who Will Get Lucky?” Forbes.com, Oct. 24, 2019

“If an aircraft is out there over the ocean and has an emergency, we were really limited [in] what we can do and how we can help . . . . We have always played catch-up. ADS-C gave us something, but with the ADS-B, the system tells me something is wrong, and an aircraft is descending through an incorrect flight level.”
—Rob Mitchell, NATS, in Tony Osborne, “Transatlantic Surveillance from Space Is Saving Time and Fuel,” Aviation Week, Sept. 30-Oct. 13, 2019

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