- Airport privatization survives the pandemic
- Inspector General on troubled FAA Logistics Center
- Airlines’ risky eVTOL plans
- Bad-mouthing billionaires in space
- A new era in airline competition
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
The global trend of private investment in airports—via outright purchase, long-term lease, or public-private partnership (P3) projects at airports—continued at a reduced pace during the pandemic year of 2020. These activities are documented in Reason Foundation’s 2021 Annual Privatization Report: Aviation, which is available now to this newsletter’s readers and being published later this week.
The aviation section includes an updated table of reported 2019 revenue of the world’s 39 largest fully or partially investor-owned airport companies, with the five largest being Aeroports de Paris, Aena Aeropuertos, Fraport, Heathrow Airport Holdings, and Vinci Airports. Despite the dire financial straits of airports worldwide in 2020, some privatizations have continued taking place.
After negotiations in 2020, Bulgaria’s Sofia Airport began operating under a 35-year concession (won by Meridiam, Strabag, and Munich Airport) in early 2021. Bolivia is negotiating a 30-year concession for the Viru Viru Airport in Santa Cruz with Aeroports de Paris. And following up on planning done in 2020, Brazil this spring raised $600 million from auctions of 22 medium-size airports, 15 won by CCR and seven by Vinci Airports.
In Asia, India awarded GMR Airports a 40-year concession to develop and operate a new airport in Bhogapuram, designed for six million annual passengers. Adani Enterprises acquired GVK and its 74% stake in the project under way to develop Mumbai’s second airport And Flughafen Zürich signed a 40-year concession to finance, develop, and operate Delhi’s second airport, planned for 12 million annual passengers. Japan’s planned 2020 privatization of the Hiroshima Airport was postponed to sometime this year. And in the Philippines, the proposed new Manila airport at Sangley Point was put on hold after the government rejected China Communications Construction Co. as the developer/operator. But the $14 billion project by San Miguel Corporation for the new airport at nearby Bulacan, under a 50-year concession, is proceeding as planned.
The biggest airport privatization news of all concerned Sydney International Airport, Australia’s largest. The airport company raised AU$2 billion in equity in 2020 and retained its BBB+ credit rating, while also receiving a token investment from giant infrastructure investment fund Brookfield. Early this month (too late for inclusion in the Annual Privatization Report), the airport received a buyout offer of AU$22.3 billion (US $17 billion) from IFM Investors, QSuper, and Global Infrastructure Partners. The bid represents a multiple of 26 times the airport’s 2019 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA, a measure of cash flow). This news was followed by multiple reports that a consortium led by Macquarie Group Ltd. is exploring a rival bid, but the airport company has now rejected the IFM bid; others are still expected.
Taken together, these developments suggest that investor interest in airports has survived 2020’s huge downturn in air travel and that at least some infrastructure investors are taking a long-term view of airports as revenue-generating infrastructure.
In the United States, most current public-private partnership activity centers on individual projects at airports, such as consolidated rental car centers (Los Angeles, Newark), new terminals (LaGuardia, JFK, Paine Field), cargo facilities (Atlanta and Anchorage), and others such as a passenger lounge (San Diego), a commercial development on airport land (Phoenix-Mesa), and a tunnel connecting a commuter rail station with the airport terminal (Ontario, CA). But there is one new whole-airport P3 lease under way. Tweed New Haven Airport and its contract management company AvPORTS are negotiating a long-term lease under which the company will upgrade the existing terminal, lengthen the runway to accommodate the 737s of the airport’s newest airline, Avelo, and later develop a new terminal.
The report also covers recent private-sector activities in air traffic control, with particular attention to the growing subscription base of Aireon, which offers global space-based surveillance of aircraft flights in the 70% of the world where there is no radar surveillance (oceans, polar regions, and mountain areas). Also summarized in the Annual Privatization Report: Aviation is the continued implementation of remote (digital) control towers, especially in Europe, where developers of the technology are partnering with innovative air navigation service providers. A growing number of these projects enable arrivals and departures at multiple small airports to be managed from a single remote tower center.
As the operator of the air traffic control system, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deals with a huge number of components for a wide array of facilities and equipment. A key player in this process is the agency’s Logistics Center in Oklahoma City. According to a recent audit report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), the center has more than a million parts in its inventory, worth about $735 million. Each year it ships and receives about 200,000 parts, supporting over 77,000 systems. And the place is a mess. (Report No. FI2021029, July 12, 2021)
The main focus of the report is a dysfunctional inventory system, implemented in 2016 and the subject of two previous OIG audits, in 2016 (on the non-standard way in which the new system was procured) and another in 2019. Basically, while the former system kept accurate track of items coming in for repair, new or repaired items going back to the field, and “excess, obsolete, or unserviceable (EOU) items,” the new system does not. The 2021 audit finds that these known problem have still not been addressed. The center does not (cannot?) assess the age of inventory items and hence maintains “excessive quantities of old and unserviceable parts.” When a new part is sent to the field to replace a non-functioning part, the latter is supposed to be shipped to the center for possible repair within 30 days—but more than 10,000 such parts, worth $38 million, have not been returned from the field. OIG auditors found $1 million in discrepancies between the new inventory system and the records of its warehouse management system. And “year after year, [the center] continues to accumulate excess inventory parts held for repair,” increasing from $359 million worth in 2017 to $431 million in 2020. According to the OIG audit, the excuse for all these problems is that the new (2016) inventory system does not have the capabilities of the system it replaced.
This is a tragic comedown for the FAA Logistics Center, which at the turn of the 21st century was being seen as a model of “reinventing government.” Norman Bowles, who became the center director in 1996, had previously served as a team leader on then-Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review. Prior to that, Bowles was a senior official in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) then-new Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Prior to his appointment to head the Logistics Center, it was “derided inside and outside the [FAA] . . . as a costly and inefficient government distribution center that could be better managed by the private sector.” As an article in Government Executive documenting the Bowles-led reinvention noted, “Parts weren’t always in stock, repairs often took weeks, and the center had not taken an inventory of its 20 million items in two decades.”
Bowles reinvented the center to focus on serving its FAA customers in the field. After studying the problems, he persuaded Congress to distribute the center’s $120 million annual budget to those customers. Henceforth, they would have to pay for repairs, giving them incentives to consider alternatives rather than what tended to happen: costly repairs of aging parts that would have been much cheaper to replace with new ones. Moreover, the bureaucratic organization was based on functions, rather than on major products and services. That often meant a project had to involve people from several divisions, rather than being a pre-existing team focused on, say, radar systems. Bowles reorganized into system-related divisions and provided all employees with extensive training on customer service and performance. He also created a board of directors, made up of managers from each of the center’s new divisions. The Logistics Center achieved ISO 9000 certification for high performance, and it received the very first President’s Quality Award, comparable to the Malcolm Baldridge Award in the private sector.
Bowles retired from FAA in 2003, leaving government service to move to Colorado and take on new challenges as a professional ski and snowboard instructor and professional mountain hiking guide. You can read the detailed 2002 Government Executive article on the reinvention of the Logistics Center here.
I have no idea how the Logistics Center went from being a widely praised success to being something more like its pre-Bowles identity. There is no mention in the OIG report of the transition Bowles and his management team implemented 20 years ago. There is only this in-passing reference on page 18:
“[A]s FAA acknowledges, the Agency was billing customers for unreturned [items] before the implementation of [the new inventory system]; we recommend that FAA return to that practice. Unfortunately, FAA does not plan to do so, citing development costs for software modification.”
In other words, it appears that the pre-reinvention bureaucratic culture has returned to the Logistics Center, and no one in FAA seems to care.
As a lifelong aviation geek, I remain fascinated by the growing array of startups seeking to develop (and in some cases, operate) electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. One of the newest developments is airlines placing sizeable, albeit conditional, orders with various startup eVTOL companies: American and Virgin Atlantic with Vertical Aerospace and United with Archer Aviation. JetBlue, while not yet placing any orders, has invested in Joby Aviation via its Technology Ventures Fund.
I remain skeptical about the cost-effectiveness of battery power for these new aircraft and also about how quick or easy it will be to obtain FAA certification in this country and EASA certification in Europe. There is also a growing cadre of skeptics of both an eVTOL air taxi business model (given how small the short-haul commercial helicopter market is) and whether air taxis are a logical line-extension of airline business models. Aviation Week’s Ben Goldstein suggests that if airlines do expand into shuttling passengers to airports, “that would amount to a substantial broadening of their existing businesses, akin to taking on ground transportation such as an in-house taxi or limousine service.” He notes that Virgin Atlantic scrapped its car chauffeur service in February 2020. Goldstein quotes aviation consultant George Hamlin as saying, “Adding complexity to your present business that doesn’t reinforce your core business significantly would seem to be a mistake. You’re going to get management distracted from its present mission, which thus far has not proven to produce robust profits over a long period of time for most airlines, apart from Southwest.”
Another consultant, Craig Jenks of Airlines/Aircraft Projects, suggested to Goldstein that he doesn’t think airlines know exactly how they would use eVTOLs. “The spectrum of ways that they can be used is absolutely huge, but you don’t know which uses will be winners.”
Even more skeptical is Cai von Rumohr of Cowen, an investment bank. After noting that airlines’ conditional orders require only minimum deposits and can be dropped if the projects don’t seem to be working out, von Rumohr suggested, “The airlines’ current eVTOL investments look mainly like relatively cheap opportunities to boost ESG ratings.”
Nearly all the leading eVTOL startup companies are aiming at relatively short-haul air taxi service, of up to 50 miles, sufficient to bring commuters from far-flung exurbs or suburbs to central business districts or to a major airport. One prominent exception is Lillium, which is targeting short-haul inter-city trips of up to 150 miles, assuming it can get batteries to support that kind of range in an eVTOL. Its current plans are to start such services between cities in Germany and in Florida. Rather than marketing its vehicles to airlines, it plans to obtain its own air operator’s certificate (AOC). That range could also serve routes between metro areas and resort destinations, such as Martha’s Vineyard, the East Hamptons, or some ski areas near Los Angeles and San Francisco.
One troubling sign emerged in mid-July from what purports to be a robust, privately financed industry. “Electric Air Taxi Companies Want to Be Included in Infrastructure Bill”, read the headline in a July 15 article on AviationToday.com. In a letter addressed to House and Senate leaders of both parties, 19 companies asked that any pending infrastructure legislation include funding “for deployment of electric aircraft charging infrastructure.” I guess their reasoning is: ‘If Washington has cash to hand out, why not get in line for it?’
While most of us cheered the successful flights of Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) to the edge of space, their successful flights also resulted in calls for regulation, taxation, and outrage at the flights’ carbon footprints. As commercial space continues to grow in volume, these questions will have to be addressed, since space travel will eventually become somewhat more like air travel, as technology improves and costs come down.
A good example is the new Air Force program called Rocket Cargo. As Aviation Week’s Lee Hudson reported, the advent within the next few years of 100-ton commercial reusable rockets makes it feasible to consider suborbital flights to deliver military supplies, disaster relief, and eventually suborbital cargo and passenger service—a staple of science fiction for more than half a century. Decreasing costs from reusability and other innovations (SpaceX and Blue Origin) make the idea at least conceivable. Under its Rocket Cargo program, the Air Force Research Laboratory has created the Rocket Experimentation for Global Agile Logistics project, aiming for multiple proof-of-concept demonstrations over the next three years. Suborbital passenger flights would be much faster than any planned supersonic transport projects.
The Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic flights prompted a social media storm of criticism of huge carbon footprints associated with rocket launches. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told Politico, “Commercial space launch vehicles emit a stunning amount of carbon dioxide—more in a few minutes than the average car would emit in two centuries of driving.” It’s true that a Falcon 9 is estimated to produce the equivalent of 395 transatlantic airline flights due to its hydrocarbon fuel. On the other hand, Blue Origin’s rocket engines use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, producing zero CO2, as vetted by Politifact. But since most rockets do burn hydrocarbons, why single out commercial ones, when the same is true of NASA and military rockets?
Angst over billionaires investing their own money to reduce the cost of access to space seems to be responsible for singling out commercial launches. On July 20, the day of Blue Origin’s historic launch, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) called for a per-passenger tax on the price of commercial space launch tickets and a two-tiered excise tax on the launch companies, one tax rate for suborbital flights, and a higher tax rate for orbital launches. He made an analogy to airline passenger ticket taxes but failed to mention that those are user taxes that pay for airport and air traffic control infrastructure, not taxes aimed at redistributing wealth. Blumenauer would also exempt NASA flights, yet those launches impose the same constraints on air traffic control infrastructure and air travel as commercial launches. Rep. Blumenauer wants the tax revenue to support the “public good,” not air and space infrastructure.
Yet the more commercial space grows, the more those launches and recoveries will conflict with the flight paths of airliners and private aviation. FAA’s barely-out-of-diapers Space Data Integrator (SDI) is a start, scheduled to begin this summer feeding launch and recovery trajectory data from the space vehicles to FAA’s ATC System Command Center in Warrenton, VA, as Aviation Week’s Bill Carey reported in the June 28-July 11 issue. But SDI does not use that real-time data to define the aircraft hazard area (AHA) for various time periods connected with launch and recovery. This essential component is still in prototype form and has only been used for testing, Carey explained. Axios reports that SDI alone is expected to reduce airspace closures from an average of four hours to “only” two. Also still being researched is equipping launch vehicles with ADS-B for additional real-time surveillance. It costs FAA money to research, develop, and operate systems like SDI and the AHA generator. The users of the airspace who create the need for these services should clearly be paying fees for the services, just as they pay various spaceports for the launch facilities they use.
And at some point well beyond where we are today, passengers on commercial launch vehicles will begin to expect the kind of safety standards that have made commercial aviation one of the world’s safest ways to travel. Currently—and correctly—commercial passenger launch is still in the experimental, development stage. The industry asked for, and Congress has granted and extended, future dates before which such launches will graduate from being experimental. Under current law, launch companies are only responsible to prevent harm to non-consenting parties (such as the owner of a house damaged or destroyed by a launch vehicle gone astray). Passengers sign consent forms acknowledging the experimental nature of the flights. For a thoughtful explanation of why this makes sense, see Rand Simberg’s book, SAFE Is Not an Option, with cover blubs from notables, including Stuart Witt of Mojave Air & Space Port.
According to the trendy new approach to antitrust now emerging at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, the criterion should be the number of firms in the market, not customer welfare. Advocates of this approach point to the huge U.S. domestic market share of the current Big Four airlines (American, Delta, Southwest, and United) as if this is inherently bad for air travelers. But evidence that passengers have few choices or face monopolistic prices is lacking. And when we get to a post-pandemic airline market, airline competition is about to increase dramatically.
To begin with, the combined market share of what I’ll call the legacy ultra-low-cost carriers (Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit) has increased from 5% to 10% in the past five years. They survived the pandemic in better shape than American, Delta, and United, and are all now in the process of significant expansion. Both Frontier and Spirit plan to double in size, with large fleet expansions under way. Frontier plans to add 150 A320s to its existing 110-aircraft fleet while Spirit says it will add 160 planes of that family to its existing 160-plane fleet. Unlike the other ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs), Spirit is moving into major hubs, with a big entry into Miami International set for October, for example. Miami is a major hub for American, but there are lots of unused or under-used gates available. Southwest has been following a similar strategy in recent years.
What I find most interesting is the emergence of three new ultra-low-cost carriers in the U.S. market. Breeze, founded by serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, gets the most publicity, but Avelo and Porter are following a similar strategy: target mostly unserved nonstop markets with affordable jet service. At a recent conference, airline analyst Bill Swelbar of Swelbar-Zhong presented the results of his research on such markets. In 2019, there were 665 U.S. city pairs with at least 30 passengers a day traveling between them but with no nonstop service. By June 2021 that number had increased to 885. Swelbar also noted the pandemic-related migration away from some of the country’s largest metro areas, providing more residents of smaller cities who will still need to travel, for business as well as leisure.
When Breeze announced its first 39 routes in May, all but two met Swelbar’s criteria (though resulted from Breeze’s own analysis). The initial focus cities are Charleston, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Tampa. Flights to all 16 destinations served by the 39 routes were planned to begin by July 22. Neeleman announced that Breeze has a further 100 cities under consideration, beyond the initial 16. Initial service is being provided by Embraer e190s with 108 seats and E-195s with 118 seats. Those routes will all be less than two-hours’ duration. Breeze will begin taking delivery of an order for 60 larger Airbus A220 in October, and those jets will serve routes with longer than two-hour flight times.
Avelo began serving its initial 12 cities from Burbank on April 28. Its announcement in early July that two of the routes (to Grand Junction, CO, and Bozeman, MT) would be suspended, led Zach Griff at thepointsguy.com, asking, “Could trouble be brewing for one of America’s newest startup airlines?”
But trial and error is how entrepreneurial firms gain empirical data to supplement their modeling. Avelo continues working with Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN) getting ready to launch service from there by the end of the year, basing three 737s there. In June, Avelo committed $1.2 million for near-term improvements to the existing passenger terminal, to which airport contract manager AvPORTS is adding $2.8 million. AvPORTS has reached an agreement with HVN to finance a $100 million capital improvement program that includes lengthening the runway by 1,000 feet (to facilitate fully-loaded 737 operations) and an all-new passenger terminal, under a 43-year lease agreement.
The newest new-entrant is Canada’s Porter Airlines. After having shut down flight operations during most of the COVID-19 pandemic, Porter is being remade into a much larger low-cost carrier. It has ordered 80 Embraer E195-E2 jets with transcontinental range. While it will resume operating smaller aircraft out of its original home base at downtown Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, it will operate the E195s from Toronto Pearson as well as Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver. And among the many planned routes will be service to “sun destinations” in the United States (expanding well beyond its current routes to Myrtle Beach and Orlando) plus destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Thus, Americans in “sun” cities planning travel to Canada will have a new alternative.
Is U.S. Slot Reform in Sight?
President Joe Biden’s sweeping executive order intending to increase competition includes reference to increased competition at airports, which led many media sources to suggest that slots at several major airports could be seen as unfairly benefitting incumbent carriers at the expense of new entrants. Alas, the actual language refers only to “improve[d] airport congestion management, implementation of airport competition plans pursuant to 49 USC 47106(f), and slot administration,” but the order does not call for any study or actual policy change.
Steep Approaches Approved for London City Airport
Airframe company Embraer has received EASA certification for its new E190-E2 to operate into London City Airport (LCY) on a 5.5-degree glideslope (compared to the standard 3 degrees). This is made possible by the aircraft’s new approach software, activated by a “steep approach” switch on the control panel, and by the capabilities of LCY’s new remote tower. The steeper approach will reduce noise exposure near the airport, while also providing greater clearance from tall buildings within two miles of the runway’s western threshold.
Tests Under Way to Reduce Contrail Formation
Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper-Area Control Center (MUAC) is conducting tests of whether high-altitude contrails can be reduced or eliminated by changing the cruise altitude of jetliners by a few thousand feet, to avoid meteorological conditions under which ice condenses from water droplets in engine exhaust. The tests are taking place during late afternoon and evening hours this summer. In separate tests, a team of Germany’s DLR and NASA is measuring the extent to which contrails can be reduced by powering aircraft with sustainable aircraft fuels (SAF). Initial tests show that the use of low-aromatic SAF can yield a 50%-to-70% reduction in contrail formation. Non-CO2 effects, including contrails, account for two-thirds of aviation’s impact on radiative forcing.
France Used Laser to Destroy Drone in Test
The French military reported the successful destruction of a drone, using a laser-powered cannon. The anti-drone system was developed under contract by French startup company Cilas. The objective is to protect sensitive institutions such as military bases, nuclear plants, and (presumably) airports from drone intrusions. The French government also announced that it intends to have an anti-drone system in place to protect the facilities of the 2024 Summer Olympics. The system tested on July 7 can detect drones at up to 3 km, track them, and destroy them once they are within 1 km of the laser cannon.
Denver Begins Phase 2 of Great Hall Renovation
Despite having been unable to work with a design/build/finance/operate/maintain partner to expand and renovate its airside terminal (Great Hall), Denver International Airport is making good progress on its scaled-back modernization using conventional contracting. Phase 1, which is adding check-in positions and restrooms, is on track to be completed by the end of 2021. And on July 12, the airport began phase 2, which will add an expanded security area on the north end of the terminal, with state-of-the-art screening technology. Hensel Phelps is the contractor for both phases of the renovation, with a budget of $770 million.
United Backs Another Electric Aircraft Startup
Together with its regional airline partner Mesa Airlines, United Airlines has invested in Sweden’s Heart Aerospace, along with placing a conditional order for 200 of its planned 19-passenger electric-powered commuter aircraft. The ES-19 is targeted to begin service in 2026, assuming no technology problems and U.S. and European certification. This is not an electric VTOL, but rather a conventional-airframe commuter plane powered by batteries instead of petroleum-based fuel. Earlier this year, United also placed a conditional $1 billion order for eVTOL air taxis under development by Archer Aviation.
Bahamas Seeking P3 to Upgrade Smaller Airports
The government of the Bahamas is seeking to enter into a long-term public-private partnership (P3) to redevelop the airports of what it terms its Family Islands. Those islands include Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Great Harbor Cay, and Long Island. The Ministry of Tourism & Aviation hired Leigh Fisher in April to develop the request for proposal (RFP)for the project, and it held a forum for interested parties on June 28. The winning P3 team will redevelop, operate, and maintain these airports for a term of years that has not yet been announced.
Cargo Glut Benefits Some Smaller Airports
According to a June 21 report in the Journal of Commerce, freight forwarders are shifting many inbound air cargo shipments to secondary airports, to avoid ground handling bottlenecks at major hubs. One of the airports benefitting is Rockford International, 85 miles from Chicago O’Hare, which already hosts Amazon Air. Another beneficiary is Rickenbacker International near Columbus, OH. Its cargo carriers include Cargolux, Cathay Pacific Cargo, Emirates SkyCargo, and Korean Air Cargo. Major traditional cargo hubs such as O’Hare and LAX have seen record incoming cargo this year, but are plagued by delays in unloading and moving that cargo to where it is destined.
French Aviation Consortium Selects Paris Airports for Hydrogen Projects
A consortium led by Aeroports de Paris (ADP) has selected (no surprise) the Paris airports as the location of 11 projects dealing with hydrogen aircraft propulsion. Companies taking part include U.S. company Universal Hydrogen, Air Liquide, Ecodrome, and a number of others. The H2 Hub Airport project is led by ADP, Airbus, Air France-KLM, and the Ile-de-France Region, all of which are convinced the hydrogen is the aviation fuel of the future.
Court Dings FAA for Changed Air Routes at LAX
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 8 that FAA made a “serious error” in changing the Los Angeles International Airport arrival routes it had announced in 2016, without a “proper” environmental review of the change. The city of Los Angeles filed suit against the 2018 changes, which imposed different noise and emission consequences on various communities than the original arrival routes. The changes were part of the Southern California Metroplex plan aiming to standardize approach and departure routes to reduce overall noise and other impacts. Los Angeles has also filed suit against FAA for Metroplex changes affecting departures to the south from the Burbank Airport (BUR).
Over 100 Governments Now Signed Up for CORSIA
International Civil Aviation Organization’s carbon offsetting plan for global aviation as of this month has more than 100 national governments signed up for the voluntary phase, 2021-2023. Sixteen island and less-developed countries signed up recently, including the Bahamas, Belize, Oman, Suriname, Tonga, and Vanuatu, bringing the total to 104. Some 35 governments are mandated to take part in the second phase, through 2035, in which their airlines will be required to offset their carbon emissions. Those 35 include all major industrial countries, including China and Russia.
CLEAR Health Pass Available for Hawaii Travel
Travelers from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii can avoid the 10-day arrival quarantine if they are signed up for CLEAR’s Health Pass technology, under which their vaccination status can be verified. CLEAR announced the agreement with Hawaii on July 9.
Heathrow Reopens Terminal 3
London Heathrow (LHR) announced that its Terminal 3, shuttered since May 2020, has reopened to traffic as of July 15. Virgin America and its partner Delta Air Lines are the largest carriers at T3, but have operated their pandemic-reduced schedules from T2 and T5 until now. While T3 was closed, it actually was used for arrivals from “red list” countries with high infection rates.
July 6 Was National Air Traffic Control Day
Unfortunately, I did not get the word in time to celebrate, but I learned about it a few days later from an online aviation discussion group. Senate Joint Resolution 188 (in 1986) focused attention on the air traffic control system and the role that controllers play in keeping air travel safe. President Ronald Reagan officially proclaimed the day on July 6, 1986, seeking to honor both the controllers who had not gone on the (illegal) 1981 strike, as well as all those who had joined FAA as it built the system back to full capability.
“In our view, the competition among airlines serving the domestic [U.S.] market generally and the business and leisure markets specifically is about to get very interesting. This will have an impact on the airports and the related supply chain, and people should not be surprised when it happens. Combining a market’s economic and demographic underpinnings with the absolute number of local passengers that were forced to connect pre-COVID, in effect creates a ready-made list of airports to serve, whether as an incumbent or a new entrant.”
—Bill Swelbar, in Sean Broderick and Ben Goldstein, “Breeze Airways Launches Into Changing U.S. Market,” Aviation Week, June 14-27, 2021
“The real difficulties with hydrogen are storing it and managing refueling. Hydrogen is very flammable, and although the flame shoots upwards, the ease with which it ignites and the fact that the flame is invisible make it a serious hazard. Storing liquid hydrogen for long periods requires carefully constructed tanks with inbuilt refrigeration, like the tank NASA uses at the Kennedy Space Center. Handling hydrogen gas at pressures of 700 to 800 atmospheres requires special couplings with refueling only being done by trained personnel under close supervision. It would appear that hydrogen is not practical for longer-range intercontinental aircraft. Although in principle light or short-range aircraft have enough space in the wing, in practice either the range or the payload would be reduced because of the weight of the hydrogen tanks. The real problems are the difficulty of storing a liquid at extremely low temperatures or a gas at very high pressure.”
—Peter Rez, Arizona State University, “Vaporware: Can Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels in Aviation?” AOPA Pilot, Aug. 2021
“There are two reasons to hop on a taxi: convenience and speed. But unlike a car, an eVTOL needs dedicated vertiports to land and take off. Air-taxi companies are partnering with firms like parking-garage owner REE and construction contractor Ferrovial to build them, but if restrictions on helicopters are a good guide, many cities won’t be able of willing to host enough vertiports to make for a financially viable air-taxi network.”
—Jon Sindreu, “Air Taxis Could Be Coming, but Not in the Way You Might Think,” The Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2021