- Europe’s emerging war on aviation
- Definitive case for public charters like JSX
- Hybrid electrics taking off
- Eliminating contrails could halve aviation’s climate impact
- FAA smoke and mirrors on runway safety
- EASA proposes new eVTOL regulations
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
Anti-aviation ideas are gaining an increasing hearing in Europe, even as airports and airlines continue plans to increase their operations in the coming decades. Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, continue to engage in disruptive intrusions at places such as this year’s Paris Air Show and the annual European business aviation event.
Some governments are already taking steps to reduce airport capacity and increase taxes on aviation. The attempt by a place-holder Dutch government to force reductions in annual flight operations at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport continues to be litigated, using noise as an excuse rather than its real target, emissions. French Transport Minister Clement Beaune has banned domestic flights for which a rail trip of less than 2.5 hours is available. He has also said that progress is being made on an increased tax on commercial flights to subsidize passenger rail service further. Beaune is also considering a ‘solidarity tax’ on business aviation. These policies are being urged by Greenpeace and other groups outraged that airline fares are far less than the fares on already heavily subsidized European railroads. The groups claim that airlines can charge lower fares due to “loopholes” in tax laws.
In June, a group of 14 environmental groups, as part of their Paris Air Show intervention, issued a statement calling for the show to “stop offering false climate solutions—such as the promise of sustainable aviation fuels and technological solutions—which are mere greenwash and insufficient to reach essential aviation reduction targets.”
Taking this kind of rhetoric seriously, the respected German aerospace research organization DLR last month proposed that long-haul flights fly at lower altitudes and speeds reduced by 15% to reduce CO2 emissions, contrails, and emissions of nitrogen oxides. DLR says this would require redesigned airliners with lower wing sweep. Needless to say, besides the cost of large-scale fleet replacement, operating costs would increase because flying lower and slower will use significantly more energy from whatever source is used. And for passengers, one negative would be longer flight durations. For example, compared with a 10,000-mile flight at 550 miles per hour (taking 18 hours), the lower and slower flight at 467.5 mph would take 21.4 hours.
But some of the most troubling proposals came to my attention via David Bentley, owner of a United Kingdom aviation consultancy group, who sent me his lengthy LinkedIn commentary about an organization called UK FIRES. It’s a five-year research program with academics from six universities aimed at “absolute zero” climate policy for the UK. The group’s aviation program calls for:
- Banning all non-electric aircraft from UK skies by 2030;
- Closing down all but three UK airports and,
- Halting all shipping (aviation and other).
Because they expect few or no all-electric aircraft to be operational by 2030, the organization calls for all UK air travel to cease between 2030 and 2049. UK FIRES’ reports are here, or you can request a copy from Mr. Bentley at email@example.com.
Your reaction to UK FIRES may be this is simply activist groups and cranks, but its core participants are academics from leading British universities, including Cambridge and Oxford. UK FIRES was launched via a £5 million grant from UK Research & Innovation, sponsored by the government’s Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology. It also receives support from a growing industrial consortium that includes asset managers and investment advisory firms. UK FIRES says it seeks to make Zero Emissions the core of the UK’s future industrial strategy.
Bentley concludes his piece by writing:
“Aviation, whether it likes it or not, is caught up in this ideological battle, and will be drawn even deeper into it than it is now; there is no escape. Every organization in [aviation] will need to stand up and be counted. The air transport industry’s leaders need to do just that—lead. And that is why, while continuing, rightly, with its own policies to make the industry as green as possible, its representatives need to develop a spine and learn how to defend air travel robustly, which is not something the likes of IATA and ACI have hitherto been noted for.”
Be thankful things have not reached this pass in the United States. But take these developments as a warning of what might be in store if extreme environmental groups get their way in Europe.
In last month’s issue of this newsletter, I wrote a brief article questioning the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed rule changes that would basically put scheduled public charter operations out of business. I drew on a post by Gary Leff on his View from the Wing blog. At that point, I wasn’t aware that Leff and a colleague were preparing a detailed submission in response to FAA’s request for comments on the proposed rules change. Leff and Stephen JonesYoung shared with me their 46-page document, “A Public Interest Comment on Public Charter Operations.”
For readers new to this subject, two recent events have led to protests by aviation unions (such as the Air Line Pilots Association) and at least two airlines (American and Southwest) that scheduled public charter operations, such as those offered since 2016 by JSX and recently proposed by a division of Skywest, are purportedly unsafe and should be regulated like major airlines. Among other changes, this would require those operators to have copilots with the same 1,500 hours of training as major airline copilots and would no longer allow captains older than the major airline retirement age of 65 to fly. Opponents argue that the public charter regulations constitute a loophole in the regulations, and they imply that these operations are less safe than major (Part 121) airlines. Supporting the status quo, besides JSX and Skywest, are the Regional Airline Association and JetBlue (a part owner of JSX).
Leff and JonesYoung make mincemeat out of those allegations, drawing on a detailed knowledge of aviation, aviation law, and sound economics. Contrary to claims that scheduled public charter operations are proliferating, they show that this industry is half the size (in terms of passengers carried) than it was between 1976 and 1998. They also point out that Congress has recognized in legislation that public charters may offer regularly scheduled service, thereby questioning whether FAA can change this by enacting a new regulation.
Next, they offer profiles of the public charter operators most likely affected by the proposed rule change. They are:
- Advanced Air
- Caesars Enterprise Services
- SkyWest (proposed)
- Southern Airways Express
- Wildcat Touring
In each case, they summarize the aircraft used, provide a map of points served, and identify which routes provide subsidized flights to airports Congress has designated for Essential Air Services (EAS). Most readers of the submission will be surprised by how many such airlines operate, serving about five million annual passengers.
Since opponents are throwing around safety concerns, the authors also researched the safety records of the aircraft models used by these operators, both overall and those operated by the nine public charter operators. The result: there is no data suggesting unsafe operations among these carriers, and if FAA claims otherwise, they write, “FAA should explain with data how public charter operators are less safe than Part 121 airlines.”
The authors are also aware of the current battle over the 1,500-hour rule for captains and co-pilots imposed by Congress following the 2009 Colgan Air crash, noting that both cockpit crew of that flight had more than 1,500 hours of total flight time. They summarize data that show no proven safety benefit from the 1,500-hour rule, hence undercutting the case for extending it to public charter operators. They also debunk repeated ALPA claims that there is no U.S. pilot shortage, citing independent studies by analytic firms and economic data showing above-trend wage growth for airline pilots—a predictable response to a shortage. As they document, higher compensation for pilots at major airlines contributes to the shortage of pilots at regional airlines.
In the concluding sections, the authors outline likely impacts on aviation if the FAA actually imposes the regulatory change, which would especially damage small communities (including EAS destinations) via less service in smaller planes. They strongly defend the competition provided by operators such as JSX, which offer service quality comparable to business class on major airlines at prices closer to full coach fares. And they remind FAA that it has been instructed by both Congress and President Joe Biden to promote competition in its rulemaking.
I recommend this superb work to Congress and the FAA, and I hope it plays a significant role in FAA’s deliberations over this proposed regulatory change.
For several years, I’ve been skeptical of venture capitalists’ infatuation with electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs). I still can’t see a viable business model for tiny aircraft with four passengers and a range of (in most cases) less than 100 miles. Part of this comes from my Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineering background plus a first-post-college job at helicopter producer Sikorsky Aircraft. The biggest problem is the huge amount of energy needed for vertical flight, coupled with the enormous weight penalty of batteries.
I believe the proposed hybrid aircraft that uses batteries for take-off but cruises using a conventional turbine engine that recharges the batteries in flight is more promising. One example I discussed last year is Swedish startup Heart Aerospace’s 30-seat hybrid ES-30. Here are four more hybrid aircraft startups that look promising.
First is Electra.Aero’s planned electric short takeoff and landing aircraft (eSTOL). Rather than opting for vertical take-off and landing, it will use a proven technology of specially designed wings with augmented airflow over them to take off in 150 feet. By using far less energy for takeoff (and smaller batteries), it is designed for nine passengers and a range of 500 miles. It’s designed to be certified as a Part 23 multi-engine aircraft flown by a commercial pilot. Aviation Week’s Graham Warwick devoted four pages to this company’s project (July 3-16, 2023). Chief engineer Chris Courtin compared the performance of eVTOL and eSTOL while studying at MIT, and he reached conclusions similar to mine: for the same gross weight, a hybrid-electric has more than twice the payload and 10 times the range of a battery-only eVTOL. Electra has letters of intent for over 1,200 aircraft, and 70% of the customers are existing operators.
Another fan of hybrids is a startup air taxi operator in England, FlyV. They envision a ridesharing air taxi service, using an app and variable pricing to schedule trips. While they hope to begin service in 2025 using a conventional nine-seat aircraft, they plan to transition in 2028 to the Electra.Aero hybrid eSTOL and then Heart Aerospace’s ES-30 hybrid conventional takeoff and landing aircraft in 2030.
French startup VoltAero is planning a single-engine conventional takeoff and landing hybrid aircraft called Cassio 330. It will be powered by battery electric motors and a Kawasaki motorcycle engine modified to burn hydrogen. It’s designed for five passengers with a maximum range of 745 miles and a top speed of 200 mph. Electric motors will turn the single pusher prop during takeoff, with the hydrogen-fueled engine handling cruise and battery recharging.
On a larger scale, English startup Lyte Aviation is planning two hybrid eVTOLs, the SkyTruck for cargo and the SkyBus for passengers, with the latter sized for 40 passengers. Both are designed with tandem tilt wings and powered by four conventional turbine engines plus a hydrogen fuel cell powering four electric motors. The range is estimated at up to 625 miles and a top speed of 186 miles per hour. Both would be crewed by two pilots and carry either 40 passengers or 4.5 tons of cargo. This project appears less far along than the other three discussed above.
If I were wealthy enough to invest in startups, and far less risk-averse than I actually am, I’d be more inclined to invest in one of the above than any of the eVTOL startups that continue to attract most of the attention. The newer companies’ common theme is hybrid propulsion, making longer range and higher payloads possible than battery-only eVTOLs.
Most of the critiques of aviation as an important factor in climate change focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the combustion of petroleum-based aircraft fuels. That percentage is often reported as about 2% of global CO2 emissions. But more recent research has focused on another impact of aviation: the formation of contrails, which sometimes lead to high-altitude cirrus clouds that can either reflect sunlight back into space (good) or trap heat below the clouds (bad). It’s unclear which effect predominates, and estimates of the bad effects range from 35% of aviation’s total impact (the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to 57% (a 2021 paper in Atmospheric Environment).
If a major impact of contrails is to trap heat, then it’s important for aviation’s future to understand where and how contrails form and how feasible it is for high-altitude flights to be able to re-route away from atmospheric regions where contrail-forming conditions are present (which varies more or less in real-time). In previous issues of this newsletter, I’ve reported on some early European pilot projects in which such locations could be identified and the aircraft in question notified to change altitude or make other minor changes in their flight plans to avoid or minimize contrail formation.
There is now a fairly large U.S. effort under way. The U.S. Energy Department this year launched a research program called PRE-TRAILS (Predictive Real-Time Emissions Technologies Reducing Aircraft-Induced Lines in the Sky). Its $10 million budget, managed by ARPA-E, has funded teams led by Boeing, GE Research, Northrup Grumman, RTX Technologies, and the Universities Space Research Association. The program’s research focuses on three areas: aircraft-based sensors to provide real-time data on atmospheric conditions, data fusion to enable prediction of subsequent contrails and cirrus clouds, and enough observations to train and validate predictive models.
One major problem that PRE-TRAILS hopes to improve on is that, as program director Peter de Bock told Aviation Daily, “Current estimates from other research seem to indicate that we’re incorrect [at predicting when and where contrails will form] 90% of the time. So you can’t really act on anything because flight path deviations [themselves] will increase CO2 emissions.”
However, a recently completed project by Google Research and Breakthrough Energy involved a small group of American Airlines pilots who flew 70 flights during a six-month period using artificial intelligence-based predictions to avoid portions of their flight plans that would traverse contrail-formation conditions. Google Research analysis of satellite imagery found a 54% reduction in contrail formation based on minor flight plan adjustments to avoid the predicted conditions.
Aviation Daily (Oct. 16) reported on ongoing Boeing research under PRE-TRAILS. Boeing’s 737 EcoDemonstrator will fly through predicted contrail-forming regions, followed by a highly instrumented DC-8 aircraft at higher altitudes to measure contrail formation. The 737 will carry two kinds of fuel in separate tanks: low-sulfur Jet A and 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This will be among the first real-world tests of whether SAF can reduce contrails in addition to reducing CO2 emissions. Boeing will also develop modeling tools for better predicting where contrails will form.
Many unanswered questions about contrail formation and contrail avoidance remain to be answered. But these projects and others in Europe are important steps in the right direction.
Last month saw a new public relations blitz from the Federal Aviation Administration on runway safety. On Sept. 1, the agency put out a news release on the subject, listing many existing programs and activities, including the aging ASDE-X and ASSC systems that generate situational awareness for controllers and pilots—but are installed at only 35 airports. On Sept. 8, the White House announced $26 million in “new funding to improve U.S. aviation safety,” including $10 million for “deploying surface surveillance systems to additional airports.” On Sept. 26, FAA announced plans to spend $201 million to install improved runway lighting systems at 82 airports.
In JDA Journal, Sandy Murdock asked, “Why Is the Biden Administration Throwing $28 Million at Vaguely Defined ATC [Air Traffic Control] Problems?” Murdock noted that a D.C. maxim is, “If you want to prevent criticism directed at the performance on a project, defining goals ambiguously is a great prophylactic tactic. No one can find fault for fixing the specific problem.” But then added, “Throwing $$$ at a vague problem fixes nothing but causes journalists to applaud.”
One of the most important additions that could prevent runway incursions and near-collisions would be installing an updated version of ASDE-X at many more airports, starting with Austin, where one of the worst near-collisions occurred early this year. Yet a mere $10 million toward deploying more of these systems is a joke. A 2007 report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General put the cost of the 35 existing systems at $15.7 million each. Adjusting this for the Consumer Price Index increase between 2007 and 2023 brings that up to $26.7 million each, which is likely an understatement. So, allocating $10 million for ASDE-X deployment is a joke.
Improved runway lighting is more of a nice-to-have improvement than a high-priority safety measure. And the $201 million dedicated to this program will be spread over 82 airports. After subtracting the largest grant ($30.6 million for a Denver project), the remaining $170.4 million works out to an average of $2.1 million for each of the remaining 81 airports. Had a safety-first FAA been making the decision on this money, the $201 million might have provided ASDE-X systems at seven or eight large hub airports that lack this vital system. Of course, that would affect only a handful of congressional districts, compared with lighting up runways at 82 airports.
On Aug. 31, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) submitted Opinion No 03/2023 for approval by the European Commission. It proposes a variety of regulatory changes to facilitate electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft. EASA’s approach differs significantly from FAA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Implementation Plan that was discussed in the August edition of this newsletter, beginning with EASA’s refusal to adopt FAA’s AAM terminology. The stark contrast between the emerging U.S. and EU approaches to eVTOL regulations is further evidence that transatlantic certification harmonization is unlikely. However, with some movement toward the middle, certification transferability is still achievable and can likewise contain global regulatory compliance costs and promote innovation.
Near the end of Opinion No. 03/2023, EASA explains several key differences between its approach and FAA’s. EASA states it did not adopt FAA’s AAM definition because it “does not cover all those operations that may be performed with new aircraft types and that do not involve the transportation of people or goods, but rely on dedicated systems or sensors (e.g. cameras, antenna relays, etc.).”
Instead, EASA adopted the terms “innovative aerial services” (IAS) to mean the broad category that includes “surveillance, inspections, mapping, telecommunications networking, etc.” and the narrower category “innovative air mobility” (IAM) that covers passenger and cargo operations, similar to FAA’s AAM definition.
EASA also rejected FAA’s “powered-lift aircraft” definition for eVTOL certification because it “is only relevant for the purpose of flight crew licensing” due to the present lack of airworthiness and operational requirements for the powered-lift aircraft category. EASA proposes to adopt a new category of “VTOL-capable aircraft” (VCA) for aircraft type certification purposes, which would exclude both traditional rotorcraft and helicopters and two-rotor tiltrotor aircraft designs such as the Leonardo AW609 currently under development.
In a move that undoubtedly relieved the eVTOL industry, EASA notes that Opinion No 03/2023 “maintains the initial performance-based proposal regarding the final fuel/energy reserve, which is the equivalent of the energy for the execution of a go-around manoeuvre.”
This is very different from the energy reserve requirements contained in FAA’s proposed Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) on AAM operating requirements and pilot certification published in June. FAA’s proposed SFAR includes a prescriptive energy reserve requirement that the industry says could double the size of an eVTOL battery, undermining eVTOL engineering and AAM economics.
However, FAA may soon be moving closer to EASA’s policy on eVTOL energy reserves whether the agency wants to or not because the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill would explicitly require FAA to adopt “performance-based requirements for energy reserves.”
On pilot training and certification, EASA’s proposal is also easier on the eVTOL industry in that it would “allow existing [commercial airline] and [commercial helicopter license] holders to add VCA type ratings to their licences” through flight simulators. FAA’s SFAR approach, which has raised industry ire, would require all eVTOL pilots to not only be existing commercially licensed pilots but for those pilots to be trained in a powered-lift aircraft with dual controls.
Manufacturers are generally designing eVTOL aircraft with a single set of controls and the industry has argued that requiring the production of specially designed dual-control training eVTOLs would be cost-prohibitive. Congress has also taken notice, with the House-passed FAA reauthorization ordering FAA “to the maximum extent practicable, align powered-lift pilot qualifications with section 126.96.36.199 of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Annex 1,” which provides that existing commercial pilots should be able to add powered-lift type ratings to their airmen certificates.
The gap between EASA and FAA on nascent eVTOL aircraft is large and almost certainly too large to bridge through international regulatory harmonization. However, certification harmonization is probably the wrong way to look at global compliance. As Earl Lawrence, former executive director of FAA’s aircraft certification division, told Flying magazine last year, “It’s not so much harmonizing rules as much as it is finding another country’s system meets an acceptable level of safety so I can accept their system.” The realistic goal should be certificate transferability, which is achievable if FAA, perhaps with some nudging from Congress, moves toward the International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards and performance-based requirements and away from U.S.-unique prescriptive rules.
Role of Simulator Training Being Discussed in Congress
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), whose support for the 1,500-hour requirement for airline pilots has been unyielding, seems to be open to the idea that simulator training might be able to meet a portion of that requirement. Politico reports that Sen. Cantwell told reporters that a decision on including simulator training should not be made until an FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that is studying this subject makes a recommendation, “at least for what a simulator option would consist of.” In terms of getting to “yes” on the pending FAA reauthorization bill, the question is how soon the ARC might have such a recommendation.
Poland Moving Forward with Giant Airport
The Polish government is in the final stages of selecting a “strategic partner” for the new airport near Warsaw airport, named Centralny Port Kimunikacyjny (CPK) Airport. It is under development with Vinci Group and Incheon Airport Corp. The plan will be a public-private partnership in which the government holds 51% and the strategic partner 49%. The location of CPK is 25 miles from Warsaw, and it is being planned as a multi-modal hub with rail and highway links. The initial plan calls for two parallel runways and 40 million annual passenger capacity. The site can be expanded to three parallel runways and 65 million annual passengers. The existing Chopin Airport in Warsaw will continue to operate under current plans.
Divergent Views on U.S. Pilot Shortage
In mid-September FAA announced a 34% increase in Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certifications issued over the past year, according to a review by investment banking firm Jefferies. A 10-year forecast by consulting firm Oliver Wyman estimates that by 2032, the North American industry will be short 13,305 pilots, less than its previous forecast of over 17,000. Jefferies pointed out that 16% of ATP-certified pilots are between 60 and 64 years of age, and another 17% are between the ages of 55 and 59. Despite these forecasts, ALPA, the largest pilots’ union, continues to claim there is no pilot shortage.
Major Expansion of Prague Airport Announced
Aviation Daily (Oct. 13) reported that the Czech Republic Finance Ministry has approved a plan to expand the Vaclav Havel Airport Prague (PRG), doubling its peak hourly capacity by 2030. The first phase will expand Terminal 2 at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, funded entirely via airport revenues. The plan aims to increase overall routes from 160 to 200 by 2030, of which long-haul routes would grow from 21 currently to 37 by 2030. The plan also calls for linking Vaclav Havel Airport to central Prague via rail by 2030.
Half of Germany’s Electricity for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)?
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr made headlines late last month by saying that if his company’s airlines were to use 100% SAF, the electricity needed to produce that volume would be half of Germany’s current electricity. And that would be just for the airlines in the Lufthansa family. If other airlines refueled in Germany, with SAF produced there, the need for a massive increase in German electricity generation would be even greater. I’m unaware of any underlying analysis supporting those numbers, but if they are anywhere in the ballpark, Germany will need to re-open its shut-down nuclear power plants.
Estonian Air Traffic Control Implements Drone Management System
Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) announced last month that it has turned on a Common Information Service for unmanned traffic management developed by Frequentis. It includes a drone map showing temporary and permanent flight restriction zones, permitted flight altitudes, flight registrations, and airspace monitoring. One of the system’s aims is to have controllers and drone operators share the same information about drone airspace.
JetBlue Plans Assistance to Allegiant to Secure Merger with Spirit
The federal Department of Justice has sued JetBlue over its plans to merge with Spirit Airlines. DOJ says the merger will reduce airline competition because Spirit is an ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) while JetBlue is only a low-cost carrier (LCC) like Southwest. Aiming to expand the ULCC market, JetBlue announced recently that it and Spirit have agreed to divest to ULCC Allegiant all of Spirit’s holdings at Boston Logan and Newark Liberty airports, as well as five gates and related ground facilities at Fort Lauderdale. Assuming FAA and the three airports agree, this may or may not allay DOJ’s expressed concerns. The Justice Department does not seem to appreciate that removing Spirit from the ultra-low-cost carrier category would open a wider market for Allegiant and Frontier, as well as relative newcomers Avelo and Breeze. Airline competition is set to keep growing.
Shares in Perth Airport to Be Auctioned
Australia’s The Infrastructure Fund (TIF) will auction off its 7.19% stake in Perth Airport, the largest airport in Western Australia. The airport’s other shareholders are mostly public pension systems, including the Australian Retirement Trust, Utilities Trust of Australia, and Utilities of Australia Perth Airport Property Fund. The Australian Retirement Trust is also considering selling its 2% stake. Infralogic reports that mergers of pension funds have led to a larger fraction of investment in airports than is considered prudent, hence the activity in Perth and similar activity in Queensland, reported in the September issue of this newsletter.
Why SFO Passengers Might Not Notice a Government Shutdown
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle explained why San Francisco International Airport (SFO) would not be plagued by shortages of screeners at the airport’s security checkpoints if there is a federal government shutdown. As long-time readers of this newsletter know, San Francisco International is the largest U.S. airport in the Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP), dating to the first years of the Transportation Security Administration. That means screeners there are employed by the TSA-approved private screening company. In past shutdowns, while TSA screener pay ceased (to be reimbursed once the federal shutdown ended), Screening Partnership Program security companies continued to pay their employees. There are currently 21 Screening Partnership Program airports. Since TSA screeners unionized, they strongly oppose any attempt by additional airports to shift to SPP provision.
Mexican Airport Company Acquires More Land at Tijuana Airport
Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP) has taken out a $40 million loan, most of which it will use to acquire 26 hectares of privately owned land within the airport’s perimeter. This will enable additional aviation facilities to be added at the airport. GAP operates 12 airports in Mexico’s Pacific region, including Guadalajara and Tijuana.
Ex-FAA Air Traffic Organization Official to Head ATCA
Late last month, the Air Traffic Control Association announced that its new chief executive officer is Carey Fagan. She was previously Acting Deputy Chief Operating Officer at FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. Earlier in her FAA career, Ms. Fagan was head of the agency’s Asia-Pacific Organization. ATCA is a membership organization for those involved in (primarily) U.S. air traffic control in the public and private sectors.
U.S. Zero Impact Aviation Alliance Formed
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has formed an organization with leading U.S. aviation entities to work on sustainable aviation goals. Founding members include Boeing, Delta Air Lines, Massachusetts Port Authority, Pratt & Whitney, and World Energy (a Sustainable Aviation Fuel producer). The aim is to develop better technology for SAF and SAF-compatible airliners and aircraft engines. The goals include prototyping in addition to strategizing and educating.
Controller-Pilot Datalink Moving Forward at FAA
After a false start in 2003 that led to a Controller-Pilot-Data-Link-Communications (CPDLC) prototype being withdrawn after test flights on American Airlines, FAA has announced that CPDLC performance requirements are expected to be released by May 2025. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) announced in August that current plans include allowing business aircraft operators to equip with CPDLC, in addition to airlines. The year 2025 is a long time since 2003.
Aviation Week Spotlights Lithium-Metal Batteries for Electric Aviation
In a full-page article in the Sept. 18-Oct. 1 issue of Aviation Week, Graham Warwick discussed what might be a breakthrough in battery technology for hybrid and all-electric aircraft. The concept replaces the usual graphite anodes in lithium batteries with lithium-metal anodes. The specific energy of the new battery is 280 Wh/kg, about 40% higher than lithium-ion cells. A planned next-generation version is aiming for 350 Wh/kg. The project is a joint venture of electric-propulsion firm Safran and battery developer Cuberg. I’m in no position to judge the value of this innovation compared with many other advanced battery concepts in the R&D stage, but this does look like significant progress.
“[The Schiphol controversy] is surely the wake-up call other governments need to remind the Dutch of their responsibilities under international law and bilateral air service agreements. Too much is at stake. Jobs today and the prosperity of the Netherlands in the future will be damaged by this decision. The caretaker Dutch government, lacking any democratic mandate, is setting fire to its own shop.”
—Conrad Clifford, deputy director general of the International Air Transport Association, quoted in Helen Massy-Beresford’s “Carriers’ Worst Fears Are Getting Real at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol,” Aviation Week, Oct. 2-15, 2023
“Resilience . . . is not about computer capacity. It is about thinking on one’s feet, changing as circumstances change. Sadly, we seem very keen to outsource that to AI . . . It is about being able to cope with circumstances. But the optimal solution is much easier to find if you have resources to spare. Yes, that adds cost. FedEx, by the way, which relies on nightly surge of aircraft on both the east and west costs of the US flying into its Memphis hub, dedicates one spare aircraft on each coast, to fly up and down, ready to step in should one aircraft be down. Yes, of course it is a cost. Think customer service. Where are IATA’s members on that matter? Oh yes, on the barricades protesting about any decision that might build some resilience, or indeed robustness, into the system. All costs are evil, apparently.”
—Andrew Charlton, managing director of Aviation Advocacy, in “Another Summer of Discontent,” Aviation Intelligence Reporter, Oct. 2023