Aviation Policy News: FAA facility replacement budget falls short
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Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: FAA facility replacement budget falls short

Plus: A fuel tax increase for business jets, a modest carry-on bag fee proposal, and more.

In this issue:

FAA Facility Replacement Budget Falls Short

To the surprise of many observers, the Biden administration’s proposal for the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget includes a new $8 billion, five-year capital program, including $5 billion to replace aging facilities such as Centers, TRACONs, and control towers. The budget narrative acknowledges that this is “the first-ever recapitalization effort for Air Route Traffic Control Centers.” It also cautions that this program “will require decades to complete.”

In his March 12 review of the transportation portion of the FY25 budget, Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation asks the sensible question, “Where was this proposal a year ago, when Congress was considering the five-year FAA reauthorization bill?”

Leaving that aside, I want to provide some context for this proposal. Back in November, FAA’s National Airspace System Safety Review Team report addressed the agency’s aging facilities, stating that “the obsolescence of the FAA’s critical operational facilities…is even more extreme” than the obsolescence of radars, ILSs, and other air traffic control technologies. Here is an excerpt:

“The FAA’s 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs), which largely control enroute aircraft, are located in buildings that are 56-64 years old, with no current plan or budget to replace any of them. If one ARTCC were replaced every other year starting in 2025, some facilities would be over 100 years old before being replaced. The FAA’s TRACONs…have an average age of 36 years, with some around 60 years old. No replacement plan exists for TRACONs, either.”

While the $5 billion over five years to begin addressing this problem is well-intentioned, it’s wrong for two reasons. First, it makes no sense to attempt to fix a facility replacement problem of this magnitude via annual appropriations over several decades (if future Congresses are still willing to do that). When faced with a major capital modernization need, just about every utility business makes use of long-term financing. This is true whether the utility is investor-owned or government-owned. Yet Congress has never given FAA the ability to issue revenue bonds. That would, of course, require Congress to ensure there would be a bondable revenue stream able to gain an investment-grade rating…and good luck with that.

The second major flaw with this approach is that it assumes that each and every ARTCC and TRACON should be replaced (probably in the same location), rather than developing a plan that takes full advantage of today’s technology to consolidate such facilities. Today’s air traffic control (ATC) has no need to locate each facility directly beneath the airspace it is responsible for. Air traffic anywhere can be managed from anywhere. Last decade I commissioned a team of aviation experts to develop a conceptual plan for U.S. ATC facility consolidation: “Air Traffic Control from Anywhere to Anywhere: The Case for ATC Facility Consolidation.

The study (PDF) proposed a replacement program that would aim at a system of five high-altitude Centers, eight “integrated control facilities,” and 38 consolidated TRACONs. The study included data on economies of scale in air traffic control facilities, in which fewer and larger facilities would be more productive than the current system. The consolidation program, by building fewer facilities, would save an estimated $1.7 billion (in 2013 dollars) in capital costs, and the annual savings from increased productivity, realizing more of the benefits from NextGen technologies, and reduced facility maintenance costs were estimated at around $1 billion per year.

Unfortunately, given likely congressional resistance to “losing” facilities in members’ districts or states, consolidation of FAA’s ATC facilities is unlikely. Only if the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) were separated from FAA and made financially self-supporting (and with bonding authority) would the ATO have the ability and motivation to consolidate ATC facilities. Airservices Australia, after it was corporatized, replaced six high-altitude centers with two new ones. Germany’s DFS, after corporatization, consolidated eight facilities into four. The U.K.’s NATS replaced four high-altitude centers with two. And South Africa’s ATNS consolidated from five centers to two. These countries all had political support for keeping all facilities in their historical (political) locations. But the decision to de-politicize ATC removed the parochial attachments to those facilities, somewhat analogous to how the use of base-closing commissions cleared the way for reducing the number of U.S. military bases in the 1990s.

In order to reap the very real benefits of air traffic control facility consolidation, we may well need to rebuild the coalition that came close to passing ATC corporation legislation in 2017-18.

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Would a Fuel Tax Increase Cripple Business Aviation?

The Biden administration’s proposed FAA budget calls for a significant increase in the fuel tax paid by business jets, which generates far less than it costs FAA to manage business jet traffic. In response, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has denounced the proposal as harmful to users of business jets. The current business jet fuel tax of 21.8 cents per gallon would be increased in steps over the next five fiscal years to $1.06 per gallon. The increase in revenue from this change would be $2.5 billion over the next decade. The change would reduce the nearly-free-ride business jets currently get in terms of paying their share of air traffic control costs.

Claims that paying more for air traffic control services would cripple the business jet industry are ludicrous. Defenders of this proposal should remind critics that all over the world business jets pay weight/distance ATC user fees. The only developed country that does not charge such fees is the United States. Business jet travel takes place worldwide, and sales and use of these important business tools do not seem to be restricted by the small difference in operating costs between Europe (with weight-distance fees) and the United States (with a tiny fuel tax).

This issue has come up many times before. Back in 2006, I looked into it in some detail for a Reason Foundation policy paper. I obtained detailed data on 15 business jets from a Conklin deDecker database, ranging in size from the tiny Eclipse 500 to the Boeing (737) BBJ. For each aircraft, the database provided takeoff weight, range, average hours flown per year, variable cost/hour and total cost/hour. I calculated the average annual fuel tax paid by each of the 15 aircraft (and, incidentally, the rate in 2006 was 21.8 cents per gallon, which is still the same).

These numbers enabled me to calculate what a typical weight/distance ATC fee might be for each of the 15 business jets in the database and compare it to the current fuel tax, on an annual basis. I used the Nav Canada weight/distance fee formula for these calculations. For example, for the Citation X, the annual fuel tax cost was $31,303, compared with the hypothetical weight/distance fee cost of $61,568—just about double. For a Gulfstream G-V, the disparity was greater: $44,191 per year in fuel tax vs. $114,432 weight/distance fee.

The Nav Canada weight/distance fees have undoubtedly increased since 2006; adjusting the above numbers for the U.S. increase in consumer prices since 2006 would mean multiplying them by 1.51. It’s important to note that whether it’s a fuel tax or a weight/distance fee, neither is a large fraction of the annual operating cost of a business jet. For the Citation X, the current fuel tax is just 3.4% of its annual operating cost. The weight/distance fee would be 6.7% of the operating cost.

My study also looked at changes in U.S. business jet sales between 1980 and 2004, when wholesale jet fuel prices were quite volatile. Business jet sales increased significantly during the latter part of this period when jet fuel prices soared.

Unfortunately, the timing of this proposed fuel tax increase comes very late in the process of reauthorizing the FAA for another five years. That, plus the usual NBAA lobbying and public relations campaign, will likely doom the proposal.

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Another Attack on JSX

In the Oct. 2023 issue of this newsletter, I reported on two major airlines’ effort to have FAA change the rules on public charter flights due to the success of one such-fast growing company, JSX. It operates under long-standing regulations that allow such carriers with 30 seats or less to operate what amounts to scheduled service, typically operating from fixed-based operators (FBOs) with pre-board screening provided without the Transportation Security Administration (similar to using a business jet operated by a company like NetJets). Two major airlines—JetBlue and United—are investors in JSX, seeing it as helping to fill in gaps in current airline service, especially to smaller airports. But American and Southwest have lobbied for rule changes that would treat public charter operators like JSX as regular airlines. Airline union ALPA also objects to JSX.

Gary Leff, in his excellent blog View from the Wing, reminds us that “49 USC 41104 clearly precludes the Secretary of Transportation from imposing rules on public charters that are more restrictive than those in place on October 1, 1978.” Moreover, FAA has received more than 60,000 comments on proposed rule changes that would force changes in JSX’s business model.

But in his Feb. 24 edition, Leff explains that a new effort to impose changes on JSX and other public charters is under way by the Transportation Security Administration. TSA is reportedly looking into the security practices JSX uses. The Dallas Morning News reports that “The Transportation Security Administration plans to share [its] proposals with public charter carriers such as Dallas-based JSX and will allow a period for feedback, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue is private. The suggested changes, which potentially could threaten the business model, won’t be made public because they’re considered sensitive security information.”

I have never flown JSX, but Leff reports that its passengers have their bags swabbed, their IDs checked against government databases, and go through screening. His blog post includes a photo showing a passenger walking through what appears to be a metal detector. It appears that passengers’ bags are not scanned. Leff points out that “TSA had no concerns over the security of public charter operators using private terminals until major airlines and pilot unions began their lobbying campaigns.”

This strikes me as an attempt to change the rules only because pilots’ unions and two airlines don’t like this form of competition. It’s not how our deregulated, open-entry passenger aviation market is supposed to work.

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Ranking eVTOL Leaders
By Marc Scribner

This year is expected to be pivotal for the nascent electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) industry. Promised near-term operational milestones are approaching and investors are increasingly demanding tangible results, which was discussed in the January edition of this newsletter. A pair of February articles in Aviation Week sized up and ranked 15 leading eVTOL firms. One key takeaway is that being first to market may be less important than being first to identify and occupy a profitable market niche.

The first article, a feature by Aviation Week’s Graham Warwick, surveys the 15 eVTOL leaders across timing, funding, production, and infrastructure dimensions. Using industry data from SMG Consulting (creator of the AAM Reality Index), Aviation Week divides the companies into three categories: those that could enter service in 2025, those close behind, and those taking a wait-and-see approach.

In the first group are Germany’s Volocopter (#1), China’s EHang (#2), and American firms Joby Aviation (#3), Beta Technologies (#4), and Archer Aviation (#5). In the second group are Boeing subsidiary Wisk (#6), Embraer subsidiary Eve Air Mobility (#7), Britain’s Vertical Aerospace (#8), Germany’s Lilium (#9), and China’s AutoFlight (#10). In the last group are Aerofugia (#11), a subsidiary of Chinese auto giant Geely, Airbus (#12), Hyundai subsidiary Supernal (#13), Japan’s SkyDrive (#14), and U.S.-based Overair (#15).

Companies in the first group have been racing toward type certification, with one—EHang’s two-seat EH216-S—being certified in October under China’s globally unique rules for passenger drones up to 600 kg. Volocopter aims to certify under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) Special Condition for VTOL by the end of July in time for the Paris Summer Olympic Games, but supplier delays have raised questions about this ambitious timeline.

Archer, Joby, and Wisk are at various stages of the regulatory approval process, with Joby receiving final airworthiness criteria from FAA on March 8 for the company’s JAS4-1 eVTOL. However, the earliest any of the American firms are expected to be certified by FAA is 2025.

Securing funding necessary to make it across the certification finish line, as well as launch and sustain initial operations expected to be unprofitable, has proven more challenging in a higher interest rate environment. Joby led the pack by raising $360 million in 2023, but SMG Consulting founder Sergio Cecutta told Aviation Week that Joby will likely need at least a billion dollars in additional funding to develop an initial service network that can turn a profit. This is largely due to Joby’s vertically integrated business model, where it plans to design, build, operate, and maintain its eVTOL fleet. In contrast, Archer and Beta plan to sell aircraft, allowing the companies themselves to generate positive cash flow sooner.

In a follow-up commentary, Mark Moore, who led the development of distributed electric propulsion technology at NASA and cofounded Uber Elevate, agreed with many of the Aviation Week rankings but arrived at several very different conclusions.

Like Aviation Week, Moore puts both Archer and Joby in the top 5 eVTOL developers. However, he ranks them both as tied at #1, while rounding out the first group with Airbus (#3), Supernal (#4), and Wisk (#5). The ranking differences are most dramatic for Airbus and Supernal, which came in at #12 and #14, respectively, in the Aviation Week ranking. Moore also downgraded Volocopter to #7 (#1), Beta to #13 (#3), and EHang to #14 (#2). He offered three explanations.

First, Volocopter and EHang may be first to achieve regulatory approval, but this will come for their two-seat eVTOLs designed to operate at low speeds over very short distances. This reduced productivity is unlikely to impress investors who are needed to finance the companies’ planned four-seat eVTOLs that might turn a profit.

Second, Airbus and Supernal, along with Wisk, are subsidiaries of large global manufacturing companies. While partnerships between eVTOL startups and major manufacturers exist, such as Archer-Stellantis and Joby-Toyota, established in-house manufacturing capabilities shouldn’t be discounted and each of these developers appears to be playing the long game.

Third, Moore believes Beta’s unique approach is a hindrance rather than a selling point. He argues its pivot to electric conventional-takeoff-and-landing (eCTOL) demonstrates it doesn’t understand the complexities associated with eVTOL.

Aviation Week’s website has more detail on Moore’s methodology and analysis that is worth reading. Moore’s points on investor perception of initial success are well-taken. The eVTOL industry faces an unclear path to profitability in a much more conservative investment climate than a few years ago. Long-term survival for eVTOL developers is likely dependent on near-term success in identifying profitable (or at least not wildly unprofitable) market niches.

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Carry-On Bags: A Modest Proposal

Because I fly a lot, I’m very glad to have Lifetime Platinum status on American Airlines, because (among other things) I get to board before the overhead bins start to fill up. By observation, one factor in late pushbacks from the gate is the need, late in the boarding process, to bring excess carry-ons to the front entry door where they can be stowed in the cargo hold before the flight can be cleared for pushback.

The Wall Street Journal’s useful “Carry On” column reported that airlines are in the process of tightening their rules about what you can take on board, apparently hoping that this will solve the problem. I doubt that it will. Consequently, I will offer an alternative approach for airlines and readers of this newsletter to consider.

These days nearly all airlines charge for checked luggage. They don’t charge for carry-ons that must be stored in overhead bins. This strikes me as exactly backwards. In effect, they are discouraging passengers from checking bags and implicitly encouraging them to use carry-ons as much as possible. There’s an economists’ phrase that seems applicable here: “When you tax something, you get less of it, and when you subsidize something, you get more of it.” Charging ever higher amounts for checked baggage and zero for carry-ons illustrates these behaviors.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if an airline altered this system. To be sure, they have come to depend on the revenue from checked bags, so don’t eliminate those charges; just, for example, cut them in half and institute a per-bag charge for carry-ons too large to fit beneath the seat in front of the passenger. This might yield less bag revenue, but if it reduces push-back delays or even enables the boarding process to take fewer minutes, there might well be productivity gains.

I, for one, would be happy to pay a modest carry-on fee in exchange for more available overhead bin space and on-time push-backs.

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European ATC Reform’s Limited Success, Part 2
By David Hughes

Note: This is part 2 of a review of the new book, Air Traffic Management: Principles, Performance, Markets, edited by Marina Efthymiou. Part 1 appeared in the Feb. 2024 issue of this newsletter.

Fragmented European airspace is continually being highlighted by airline lobbying groups as contributing huge amounts of inefficiency. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says Europe is continually taking two steps forward and one step back in terms of cost efficiency. In 2020, Airlines for Europe (A4A) said, “European ATC remains inefficient, expensive and unreliable for millions of passengers.”

In 2019, Eamonn Brennan, the director general of Eurocontrol, raised a question: “Airlines are charged billions of Euros for [ATC] services but are they receiving billions of Euros worth?”

In 2018, the total European ANSP enroute and terminal costs reached €8.4 billion, according to Eurocontrol. Of these costs, 65% are for staff while only half of that workforce is engaged in ATC operations.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, IATA figures show the global airline industry lost about $84.3 billion. It would take another book to explain how air navigation service providers (ANSPs) worldwide weathered this storm. This event shows the industry can’t expect traffic volumes to march up in a straight line every year. The constant growth in traffic isn’t without its problems either, as it was already causing difficulties with delays when the pandemic hit.

The airline industry has been deregulated, but the book explores why it is so difficult to regulate ANSP monopolies to encourage safe but more cost-effective delivery of services. Are ANSPs to be managed by financial fines for delays or incentives for higher throughput as long as this meets safety standards? These measures have side effects that are a concern over whether an ANSP might take its eyes off of safety, and so finding the right balance in regulation to improve ATM in Europe is a conundrum.  

The European approach to ANSPs was molded starting with the Chicago Convention in 1944 when it was ruled that each nation has sovereignty over its own airspace. So the nations of Europe each organized its own airspace and built the required infrastructure to control it. Getting away from this with cross-border privatization presents problems in respect to protecting national sovereignty and managing the military use of airspace to guard against attack. Attack became a more serious point when Russia invaded Ukraine and closed airspace in the area.

If services can be unbundled to be governed by market mechanisms the first services to be affected may be CNS (communications, navigation, surveillance), aviation information management, terminal air navigation services, automatic dependent surveillance, MET (meteorology), and at a later stage perhaps en-route ANS (air navigation service), according to the chapter on business frameworks by Marek Bekier. He lectures on ATM (air traffic management) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He has held operational and managerial roles at the Swiss ANSP Skyguide, where he was ATM director for Zurich. He writes that the European Commission proposes to amend the SES (Single European Sky) regulation to create commercial markets for the following services: aeronautical information (AIS), ATM data (ADS), CNS, MET and terminal ANS.

The European Green Deal established in 2019 calls for cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2035. This was decided before ANSPs found themselves in survival mode during the COVID-19 pandemic and then were also dealing with airspace disruption when Russia invaded Ukraine. As a result of all this, the path forward in environmental improvement is difficult to forecast. However, the European Commission estimates that SES will only reduce aviation’s adverse impact on the environment by 10% while it could cut the cost of ATM in half, improve safety 10X and triple airspace capacity. Editor Efthymiou said in an interview she doubts even 10% can be achieved while at the same time European ANSPs will be trying to increase capacity and handle more traffic.

The dream, of course, is to completely unify European airspace so it is not limited by national boundaries. Avoiding inefficient flight paths provides the largest opportunity for C02 reduction. According to Eurocontrol, in 2021, air navigation services can influence 6% of CO2 emissions from gate to gate, with 39% of this involving en-route airspace horizontal inefficiencies (zig-zag routes). Operations at Maastricht UACC controlling the airspace of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium saves 40,000 kg of fuel each day and 15,000 kg of CO2. 

One key issue in the recruitment and training of controllers is their mobility among the 37
ANSPs, which all handle the process in different ways. It is not easy for controllers working outside the European Union to land a job in Europe, or to shift from one ANSP to another.

European air safety regulator EASA aims to simplify the system for licensing controllers and for recognizing licenses from third-party nations. In one chart, the book’s controller training chapter catalogs differences between eight ANSPs from training duration (60 months for the FAA and 24 months for the Irish Aviation Authority for example) to costs. The FAA didn’t provide costs but it does pay students an allowance of $18,343 while they are at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. An issue emerging now is whether pilots and controllers need some environmental instruction in their training, according to Efthymiou.

The book has other chapters on the legal framework for ANSPs, SES and NextGen, controller recruitment and training, safety management for ANSPs, capacity and delays, environmental performance of ANSPs, charges, regulation, and remote tower operations.

Efthimioys’s next book will be on sustainable aviation and innovative technologies.

David Hughes is a freelance aerospace journalist who was managing editor at Aviation Week magazine. He also wrote about avionics and later about NextGen as an FAA employee/writer. A version of this article is appearing in The Journal of Air Traffic Control.

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News Notes

Wall Street Journal Features U.K. Digital Tower Progress
In a stunning video released last month, The Wall Street Journal shows how artificial intelligence and remote tower technology are improving runway performance at both London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport. Nothing like this is being done anywhere in the United States.

LaGuardia Now Ranks First in North America Passenger Survey
The recent Airport Service Quality survey of airport passengers in North America ranked LaGuardia as one of the two best airports (tied with Minneapolis/St. Paul) in the 25-40 million annual passengers category. Back in 2018, LaGuardia ranked as the worst airport in North America. But last year the final stage of an $8 billion terminal reconstruction and modernization program was completed, and passengers obviously appreciate the greatly improved facilities. The annual survey is carried out by Airports Council International (ACI).

Aireon Coalition to Develop Space-Based VHF Voice Communications System
Communications to aircraft operating over remote regions and in oceanic airspace have historically lacked reliable voice communications. To meet this need, Aireon has launched the Space-Based VHF Coalition, whose founding members are satellite provider Iridium and ANSPs Nav Canada, NATS, AirNav Ireland, ENAV, and Naviair. The project will take advantage of new radio frequencies for aeronautical use, announced in December by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Aireon will also work with ICAO on technical and operational requirements for space-based VHF voice communications.

Airservices Australia and Frequentis to Develop Drone Traffic Management System
The ANSP for Australia has selected Frequentis to develop a Flight Information Management System (FIMS) to enable Airservices to integrate drones, air taxis, and other uncrewed air vehicles into its airspace. An Airservices Australia study projects that drone flights in the country will grow from 1.5 million today to 60 million by 2043. The new FIMS will be the core of the ANSP’s Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Traffic Management ecosystem, enabling Airservices to share flight information between ATC, traditional aircraft, and uncrewed airspace users.

Iridium Acquires Company with GPS-Like Capabilities
Satellite operator Iridium will acquire Satelles, a company that provides resilient navigation and timing to supplement GPS. Satelles already uses the Iridium satellite network to broadcast its own timing and positioning signals, with a signal strength about 1,000 times as strong as signals from the GPS satellites. These much stronger signals are less vulnerable to spoofing and jamming than GPS signals. Iridium is working to miniaturize the receiver technology, making it less expensive for customers. The company originally owned 20% of Satelles and is buying the other 80% for $115 million.

Universal Hydrogen Operates One-Megawatt Liquid Hydrogen Fuel Cell
In a simulation of a regional aircraft’s fuel-cell-powered flight, Universal Hydrogen operated a ground-based test rig running its megawatt-class liquid hydrogen fuel cell for an hour and 40 minutes, reported Aviation Daily (Feb. 29). The test took place at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The company said that the test was a functional analog of the prototype fuel cell it has been testing in a DeHavilland Canada Dash 8-300 regional aircraft. The liquid hydrogen module holds enough fuel to power the test rig for more than three hours at full power, the company said.

Frequentis Developing System to Validate a Virtual Tower at Munich Airport
Frequentis DFS Aerosense, a joint venture of German ANSP DFS and technology company Frequentis, will develop a virtual tower at Munich Airport in 2024 and will use it to study and validate its operations during 2025. With virtual/digital/remote towers already in operation for several years at smaller German airports Saarbrucken and Erfurt Weimar Airports (controlled from a center in Leipzig), the Munich project represents the next step in virtual tower progress in Germany. The project is intended to test all aspects of a virtual tower for a large international airport such as Munich.

Newcastle Airport Stake May Be Sold
Infralogic reported (Feb. 20) that InfraBridge is exploring the sale of its stake in U.K. airport Newcastle International. The airport recorded a record 4.9 million passengers in 2023. The company owns 49% of Newcastle and the remaining 51% is owned by several local and regional governments. InfraBridge was formerly known as AMP Capital, a global infrastructure investment fund.

Wisk to Explore Air Taxi Service in Houston
Wisk Aero has partnered with Houston suburb Sugar Land to explore a possible urban air mobility (UAM) network for the Houston metro area. The initial vertiport would be located at Sugar Land Regional Airport, intended as a “gateway for the establishment of a larger network across the Greater Houston region.” Wisk will provide the city with technical guidance on air taxi operations, while the city will see how advanced air mobility could be integrated into its long-term business plan. Wisk is currently building its Generation 6 eVTOL, the design it intends to submit to FAA for certification.

Commercial Air Service Quality Improving
Swelbar-Zhong consultants’ second annual commercial air service quality report on 350 U.S. airports finds that overall domestic commercial air service quality improved 4.5% in 2023 compared with 2022. The largest increase was 6.6% at medium hub airports. Large hubs came in second at 4.6%, with 3.6% improvement at non-hubs and a 3.5% decrease at small hubs. The company’s website had not posted the survey as of this writing, but these numbers come from an Aviation Daily story (March 11, 2024) focused mainly on American Airlines’ regional service.

FAA Revises eVTOL Certification Basis
In the wake of industry concerns about different eVTOL certification requirements in Europe and the United States, FAA this month released a revised certification basis for the Joby JAS4-1 eVTOL (Aviation Daily, March 11, 2024). While some had urged FAA to adopt the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) categories of “Basic” and “Advanced,” FAA adopted its own categories of “Essential” and “Increased” performance levels. Joby has completed the first three stages of FAA type certification and is now in the fourth of five stages. The company says it continues to target the start of commercial passenger operations in 2025.

Feedback on FAA and Collegiate Training Initiative
Former FAA Chief Counsel Sandy Murdock urged FAA to further expand controller recruitment and training by working cooperatively with SERCO, a global company that says it is the “largest non-governmental provider of air navigation services in the world, delivering air traffic control for small regional airports as well as the largest commercial air hub on the globe.” He suggested that FAA’s expanded controller recruitment and training “should include a highly respected, proven recruiter, trainer, and manager of controllers,” such as SERCO.

Article on the Father of GPS
Not that many people in aviation know the history of the now ubiquitous GPS system. The key figure is Brad Parkinson, who basically conceived and managed the system, overcoming opposition within the Air Force at several key points. Parkinson got his MS in electrical engineering at MIT (working under the legendary Doc Draper at the Instrument Lab) and then an aero/astro PhD at Stanford, prior to his USAF career. The whole story is ably told by aviation writer David Hughes, in Air Traffic Technology International 2024. If there were a Nobel Prize in engineering, Parkinson would be an obvious candidate.

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Quotable Quotes

“In China, a project as big—and promising—as SpaceX’s Starship would likely be backed and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. It is unlikely that the party, which is famously image-conscious, would be tolerant of a rocket of that size exploding in full public view. But SpaceX’s repeated launch failures of the Starship within the last year are not madness. They are rather a method of acquiring knowledge—or refining a product—through trial and error. Unencumbered by internet censors and official party doctrine, SpaceX’s philosophy of ‘fail fast, learn faster’ has spread like wildfire across the U.S. space sector. While Musk may yet fall victim to his megalomaniacal expansion into new industries . . . if the U.S. holds fast to its values, there will be dozens of entrepreneurs to replace him and a whole new decade of innovation in space to come.”
—Garrett Reim, “Fail Fast, Learn Faster,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, Feb. 12-25, 2024

“JSX has had no security incidents since its inception in 2016, and the nation’s public charter program, in its entirety, demonstrates an exceptionally strong safety record. Our TSA-approved security program at JSX meets, and in many ways voluntarily exceeds, time-tested regulatory requirements. Public charters make flights available to thousands of underserved communities across America at smaller airports where behemoth Part 121 network airlines cannot fly. It is largely taxpayer money that funds the over 1,000 airports unserved by large Part 121 air carriers—and yet, without service by public charters like JSX, these airports remain unusable for those taxpayers, unless they have the privilege to own or rent private jets.”
—Memo, “Statement from JSX Addressing the Remarks of Doug Parker, Former CEO of American Airlines,” JSX, March 13, 2024

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