Aviation Policy News: FAA reauthorization boosts U.S. remote towers
Photo 137648787 © Photosampler | Dreamstime.com

Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: FAA reauthorization boosts U.S. remote towers

Plus: Air traffic controllers refuse to relocate, new technology to warn pilots of runway collisions, and more.

In this issue:

FAA Reauthorization Boosts U.S Remote Towers
by Marc Scribner

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 (Public Law 118–63) was enacted on May 16 and runs through the end of Sept. 2028. The law includes Section 621, which aims to counteract the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) administrative inertia on remote/digital air traffic control towers that have so far prevented adoption of these technologies in the United States. Reason Foundation served as a subject-matter expert as Congress developed legislative language targeting barriers within FAA to remote tower certification and deployment.

According to a database maintained by the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), globally, there are 11 fully operational remote towers, 16 under development and expected to be operational within three years, and six remote tower centers managing multiple remote towers—in addition to several contingency towers, remote tower research sites, and pre-development projects. Most of these are concentrated in Europe, where the technology was first commercialized, but interest is growing rapidly in Asia/Pacific, and the benefits of remote towers can be realized worldwide.

Readers of this newsletter are likely familiar with FAA’s sluggish approach to remote/digital towers. Despite developing the initial remote/digital technology nearly two decades ago, FAA has failed to develop a workable certification process for remote/digital towers.

Seemingly arbitrary policy changes made mid-certification caused technology vendors at the two most advanced U.S. projects—Saab at Virginia’s Leesburg Executive Airport and Searidge at Northern Colorado Regional Airport outside Fort Collins—to jump ship in 2023 after nearly a decade of work. The Northern Colorado project, with the strong backing of the Colorado Department of Transportation, is attempting to salvage the progress that has been made with new vendors RTX (formerly Raytheon) and Frequentis.

These unfortunate events did perhaps have a silver lining: identifying the bureaucratic failure points that Congress could attempt to correct through legislation. And, in fact, the debacles at Leesburg and Northern Colorado directly inspired several key provisions contained in Sec. 621, which are summarized below.

First, the law requires FAA to create a clearly defined system design and operational approval process, and to publish milestones for achieving testing and deployment approval, within 180 days of President Biden’s signature on May 16. The lack of clear formal standards and FAA’s ad hoc approach to system design approval bedeviled airport sponsors and technology vendors, and deterred interest in remote/digital towers in the United States. This provision would also require FAA to “assess the safety benefits of a remote tower against the lack of an existing tower,” which will hopefully help the agency better understand the risks and costs that arise from inaction. 

Second, Sec. 621 partially reverses a 2022 FAA decision to force vendors to install their systems at the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for evaluation rather than allow those systems to be evaluated at the airports at which they would be operated, a costly deviation from international best practices. Specifically, the law requires that FAA expand system design approval to at least three locations outside the Tech Center by the end of 2024.

Third, despite the many setbacks, the new law recognizes the significant progress made toward achieving system design approval by Northern Colorado’s project and that forcing them to restart from square-one under the new mandated process would be cost-prohibitive. To that end, Sec. 621 states that FAA should not interpret anything in the new law as invalidating prior system design approval activity and that existing work towards this goal should be preserved.

Fourth, to allow for better congressional oversight of FAA’s efforts to implement the new remote tower law, Sec. 621 requires FAA to brief legislators within 180 days of enactment and every six months thereafter through Sept. 2028. These regular briefings should help bring needed transparency to FAA’s work on remote towers, where opaqueness was a common complaint among external stakeholders.

Finally, the law amends the FAA Contract Tower Program’s and Contract Tower Cost Share Program’s enabling statutes to explicitly add eligibility for remote towers. This aims to level the playing field between conventional brick-and-mortar towers and remote towers. These changes should both increase the ability of small airports to add tower service and reduce per-airport expenses through lower-cost remote towers. Sec. 621 also orders FAA to prioritize testing and deployment of remote towers at those airports that currently lack air traffic control towers, wish to provide small and rural community air service, or are new entrants into the Contract Tower Program.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the critical role of Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) in developing and advancing Congress’s remote tower reforms. In Sept. 2022, the Charlotte-area Concord-Padgett Regional Airport partnered with Kongsberg to replace an aging conventional control tower that operates under the Contract Tower Program. When I testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in March 2023 on air traffic control modernization, Sen. Budd showed both strong interest and familiarity with the problems plaguing FAA certification of remote towers, including the new project in Concord, NC. Sen. Budd deserves much of the credit for Sec. 621 being included in the final FAA reauthorization bill.

 » return to top

17 N90 Controllers Refuse to Move to Philadelphia TRACON

On March 20, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a breakthrough regarding a years-old plan to address the chronic shortage of full-performance level controllers at the N90 Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (TRACON) on Long Island. After what must have been daunting negotiations with the controllers’ union, the agreement called for the controllers responsible for departures and arrivals for Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to be shifted to the Philadelphia TRACON. The move was scheduled for July 28, and the controllers who relocated would receive a 15% incentive bonus plus a $75K payout (later increased to $100K) for those willing to relocate permanently. But on May 14, 17 of the 33 fully certified Newark controllers announced that they refuse to move.

The reasons being given for their refusal are several. They object to disrupting their family life and don’t want to move away from where they are happy to live and work. But since those are personal reasons, the controllers also trot out “safety” reasons—supposedly, they need to be in the same room as their colleagues who deal with John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airport traffic. And long-time House and Senate members who see N90 as “their” TRACON have sent FAA what The New York Times called a “blistering letter” denouncing the relocation plan.

There’s a more believable explanation for the 17 refuseniks. They have a really sweet deal at N90, due to the still-horrible organizational culture that evolved there over decades. As I detailed in the Feb. issue of this newsletter, quoting from a never-released FAA internal assessment from 2005, among those problems were (and presumably still are):

  • The highest overtime cost of any TRACON, more than 2.5 times that of FAA’s second-most costly TRACON;
  • Scheduling practices that require unnecessary overtime to meet operational needs; and,
  • Schedule manipulation, inappropriate use of sick leave, and excessive use of workers comp.

N90 controllers somehow always used 100% of earned sick leave, and according to The New York Times article, some controllers are still earning as much as $400,000 a year, which suggests that the corrupt 2005 culture persists.

FAA faces a real dilemma with this situation. If it fires those 17 controllers, there will be fewer controllers going to Philadelphia who understand the specifics of Newark’s airspace and could easily adapt to doing their familiar job in a new facility with the same equipment and general procedures. That will make it harder to bring about the shift of this airspace to the Philadelphia TRACON, which is the best plan that’s been worked out to ease the chronic shortage of full performance level controllers at N90.

On the other hand, since there has never been a follow-up report to the 2005 investigation of the out-of-control culture at N90, getting rid of those 17 controllers and transferring the other 16 to Philadelphia would put the 16 into a facility with a normal, responsible organizational culture, and, presumably, supervisors who would not stand for N90-type schedule manipulation, excessive sick leave, and other practices. It would also represent a large first step in breaking up the corrupt culture that would still remain at N90.

For several decades, the culture and air traffic controller staffing problems at N90 have been widely known within the FAA but never publicly discussed by the agency. It’s time for FAA itself to pull back the curtain and present the controller relocation plan as not merely for air traffic congestion relief but also to start repairing the very broken culture at this vitally important facility.

 » return to top

Could Airport Privatization Come to Canada?

Canada has a unique model for commercial airports. The national government owns all the principal airports, but in 1992 it began devolving control of them to local non-profit airport authorities that must pay rent to the national government. The rent is a percentage of each airport’s annual revenue, which can be as high as 12%. In effect, this system not only raises airport operating costs (and hence airfares); it also acts as a penalty for airport growth.

Airports have long opposed this model, and Canadian airline officials cite those rents as one of the reasons Canadian airfares are so high. But there are now signs that this status quo might be open to change. The first sign appeared in Chapter 4 of the national government’s 2024 budget proposal. In a section titled “Encouraging Pension Funds to Invest in Canada,” it announced a working group led by a former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Minister of Finance to “catalyze greater domestic investment opportunities for Canadian pension funds.” Among the opportunities listed was “airport facilities.”

While Canadian pension funds invest equity in privatized airports worldwide, there is no equity in Canada’s non-profit airport authorities, so the pension funds could invest only in public-private partnership (P3) projects for new on-airport facilities (such as a rental car center or a cargo building). Any such projects would leave intact the very costly annual lease payments to the national government.

On May 30, CBC News released an article by Kyle Bakx, “Privatization? Foreign Investment? Canadian Airports Face an Overhaul of their Business Model.” It focused on airline opposition to airport lease payments, which contribute to high per-passenger charges (akin to U.S. passenger facility charges). Bakx cited statements by WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech and wrote that, “His demands, if successful, could lead to a revamp of air travel in the country that could open the doors to partial or full private ownership of airports.”

Bakx also quoted McGill University Prof. John Gradek saying that “what has to happen is a whole new governance structure for airports.”

One possible model for this would be for the current national government (or its successor—a national election is due no later than next year) to enact legislation enabling local airport authorities to opt out of the current lease agreement by instead seeking a long-term P3 lease from a global airport company. The winning bidder would be required to pay the national government a sum sufficient to extinguish the airport’s future lease payments, with actual ownership reverting to the nonprofit airport authority.

Basically, the national government would be giving up the lease-payment revenue stream in exchange for a lump-sum payment. The airport authority’s goal would be a new business model with a significantly lower passenger facility charge and expanded retail and other aviation revenue (as is typical of the changes brought about by airport P3s worldwide—see the lead article in the April 2024 issue of this newsletter).

Needless to say, Canada’s world-class public employee pension funds, which invest in P3 and privatized airports worldwide, would be happy to co-invest with global airport companies in newly available Canadian airport P3s. Whether the current government of Canada would pursue this option remains to be seen, but if the opposition wins the upcoming election, it might be more favorable to this major policy change.

 » return to top

New Technology Could Warn Pilots Against Runway Collisions

For years I’ve heard stories about a system that could provide voice warnings to cockpit crews of an impending runway incursion, like those which have increased significantly in the past 18 months. Now, Honeywell has unveiled a new version of the system it developed and tested in 2007, working jointly with Sensis (now Saab Sensis) at its operations in Syracuse, New York. The same Sensis team that had developed the breakthrough airport technology ASDE-X (which warns tower controllers of an impending collision) also developed a prototype to automatically send a voice warning to the cockpit crew of the aircraft at risk, generally more quickly than the controller in the tower.

From recent emails with former Sensis engineers, I learned that the 2007 system relied on data from the hen-new ASDE-X runway surveillance system and interfaced with Honeywell’s Mode-S transponder and the TCAS collision-avoidance box on the aircraft. One engineer sent me a Sept. 26, 2007, Aviation International News article by John Sheridan, reporting on a demonstration of the voice warnings at the Syracuse airport, put on by Sensis and Honeywell.

Fast-forward to Jan. 2024, when Scripps News distributed an article recalling that demonstration, but claiming FAA had slow-walked its approval, partly because of its reliance on ASDE-X, which is installed at only 35 US airports. I followed up with my retired Sensis contacts and one recalled that it was “the prospect of modifying the RTCA TCAS standards and then thousands of aircraft TCAS units” that killed the 2007 project.

But then came a flurry of articles this month announcing demonstrations of a new version of the aural warning system developed by Honeywell. Dominic Gates of the Seattle Times reported on Honeywell flight demonstrations at the Yakima, WA airport on June 7. Honeywell is calling the new version Surf-A, for Surface Alert. Gates reported that Honeywell is working with FAA to certify Surf-A and hopes it will be available to airlines in 12 to 18 months.

The system appears to rely on ADS-B signals from all equipped aircraft and those ground vehicles that airports have chosen to equip. This implies that the system requires the equipped plane to have ADS-B/In capability. Does it still rely on the aircraft’s TCAS box, and if so, what about the 2007 concern about the need to modify a related RTCA specification? Also, does the new Honeywell Surf-A work at all the airports that don’t have ASDE-X?

These questions will likely be answered once the aviation trade press gets the details. This is certainly a welcome development, and it provides the possibility that FAA will heed repeated NTSB pleas not only for such a capability to be developed but for it to be standard equipment on new aircraft and retrofitted on existing airliners and business jets.

 » return to top

Hybrid-Electric Aircraft Gaining Support

Over the past several years, I have questioned the viability of all-electric aircraft, whether electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOLs) or mainline passenger aircraft. The limitations of current and projected batteries are now changing minds in both financial and aircraft design communities.

One of the most important assessments came from McKinsey & Co.’s Robin Riedel, co-lead of the company’s Center for Future Mobility. At McKinsey’s Regional Air Mobility Summit in San Francisco (April 26), he noted the current battery champion, the EPiC 1.0, with an energy density of 200Wh/kg. While that is a new high (and has not yet been FAA-certified), it’s pretty pathetic for aircraft beyond short-haul flying:

“If you put half of the aircraft weight into batteries, you’re still only in the 200-mi. or so [range]. When you take the reserves out with battery-electric, with today’s technology you’re looking at probably sub-100-mi. range on these aircraft.”

And that is why an array of hybrid-electric startups “see their moment coming,” according to Aviation Week’s Garrett Reim, who covered the McKinsey event.

Recent articles in Aviation Week and elsewhere have covered hybrid-electric plans and prototypes from companies such as Ampaire, Electra.aero, Heart Aerospace, and Volt Aero. In their various projects, they have all weighed the trade-offs between all-electric and various forms of hybrid-electric. Sweden-based Heart Aerospace has the most ambitious near-term hybrid design—a 30-passenger regional airliner, the ES-30. Though it has not yet built or flown a prototype, Heart’s ES-30 is projected to have a 125-mile range using only battery power but about double that in hybrid mode, where the battery is used for high-power needs such as take-off while conventional turboprops are used for cruise. The battery system will be much smaller than for an all-electric version of the ES-30. But since Heart has not yet built or flown a demonstrator, its stated aim of being certified by 2028 seems highly optimistic.

I’m most impressed by Electra.aero, whose flying prototype is delivering amazing performance. The EL-2 Goldfinch is the size of a Cessna 172, but it has demonstrated a take-off roll of less than 175 ft. and a landing roll of about 150 ft. That is due to a specialized wing with large flaps and eight propellers to drive huge volumes of air across its surfaces, enabling high lift that leads to very short take-off and landing distances—hence the term STOL (short take-off and landing). The company’s first production model will be a nine-passenger STOL aircraft for regional air service and military applications.

On Electra’s drawing boards for potential 2040 air service is a far more ambitious project: a turboelectric wide-body airliner combining an array of innovations.  Electra’s CEO John Langford told Aviation Week’s Graham Warwick, “At first electrification looks attractive, but the more electric it gets, the worse the performance. The problem is battery weight.”

The industry is looking forward to aircraft battery packs with 1,000 Wh/kg by the end of this decade, but even that would not enable an all-electric mid-market airliner, Langford said. “With 1,000 Wh/kg, you can get to a reduced-performance thin-haul regional. To go bigger, you have got to do something else. Hybrid-electric distributed electric propulsion is the something else for the next 50 years.”

Electra’s 2040 airliner concept is being designed by a team that includes MIT, the University of Michigan, American Airlines, and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. The current design includes a lifting-body fuselage with a two-aisle wide-body cross-section. The long narrow wings host 12 propellors and include boundary-layer ingestion to reduce drag and yield a 20% reduction in fuel burn. At the rear of the fuselage, ducted fans would ingest the upper fuselage boundary layer, for added drag reduction.

I’ve seen several electric or hybrid airliner concepts over the past year, but this one strikes me as well-thought-out and being developed by a project team with excellent credentials.

 » return to top

Is India the New Frontier for eVTOL Service?

A front-page article in Aviation Daily (May 14) was headlined “Understanding India’s UAM Opportunity.” It cited Archer Aviation CEO Adam Goldstein saying that “India could become the largest urban air mobility market in the world, just as it has already become one of the fastest-growing electric vehicle markets.” That strikes me as bizarre, but let’s take a closer look.

Indian aircraft operators have placed 830 conditional orders for air taxis, according to SMG Consulting. And a startup company that hopes to offer air taxi services in major Indian cities sees “an addressable market of 20 million flyers per day by 2027. So claims Hunch Mobility, and I hope its claim is based on more than a hunch.

Let’s look at the numbers. India is a low-income developing country. Only 10% of its population even own a car. The wealthiest 1% of the population earn an average of $66,000 per year, compared to the comparable 1% in California averaging $400,000. Moreover, the very high density of India’s cities means it will be hard to find locations for vertiports, but the smaller size in square miles of Indian cities means average eVTOL trip lengths will be a lot shorter than in Houston or Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, the cost of developing an Archer or Joby eVTOL is the same regardless of where they operate; likewise for operating cost per mile. It’s unclear what the full cost of a eVTOL will be (including recovering years of development plus certification costs), but I’d be surprised if this cost would be less than commercial helicopters, which, as far as I know, have never made a profit transporting passengers from central cities to airports. Check out the prices Blade Helicopter charges for flights from Manhattan to LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark—in the vicinity of $300 one way. A mass market this is not, and it’s very hard to imagine a mass market in a developing country like India.

The other hot new market is the United Arab Emirates, where both Archer and Joby have recently announced deals. Joby has teamed with Skyports Infrastructure to develop a vertiport network in Ras Al Khimah, one of the Emirates. Skyports also plans to build such a network in Dubai, also in partnership with Joby. Abu Dhabi recently announced deals with both Archer and Joby. Joby signed an MOU with the Abu Dhabi government envisioning a full air taxi ecosystem, including infrastructure, training, flight operations, and local manufacturing. Joby has an exclusive agreement to operate air taxi services in Dubai, but its Abu Dhabi agreement is not exclusive. Archer’s Abu Dhabi agreement includes “hundreds of millions” of dollars in subsidies to build out its air taxi ecosystem, but Joby’s agreement has no such subsidies.

The Emirates certainly have many wealthy people who would be potential eVTOL air taxi customers, even at $300 per trip. But it’s not clear that there are enough of them to support one or more “air taxi ecosystems.” Household per-capita income in the UAE averages about $28,000, but this likely does not include the huge number of guest workers on relatively short-term contracts. Whether there are enough well-heeled Emiratis to support one or more eVTOL ecosystems remains to be seen.

 » return to top

News Notes

Florida Airport May Be Privatized
Avon Park, in central Florida, has applied to FAA to lease its airport under the Airport Investment Partnership Program (AIPP). The two-runway general aviation airport has about 88 flights per day. Due to its operating deficit, the city was considering contract management in 2023 when it received an unsolicited proposal from Florida Airport Management. After seeking but receiving no other proposals, the city filed an application to AIPP with a draft 30-year lease proposal. FAA’s comment period closed last November, but the agency has not yet announced a decision. Only two other U.S. airports have been leased under AIPP: San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Airglades Airport in Hendry County, Florida. A detailed article about AIPP appeared in the March issue of Public Works Financing.

Second Remote/Digital Tower Commissioned in Estonia
On May 8, the Estonian Transport Administration approved the startup of remote operations of Kuressaare Airport from the Estonian Air Navigation Services (EANS) remote tower center in Tallinn. The remote/digital tower facilities were developed and installed by Adacel. EANS has announced its intention to become the world’s first county in which all the regional airport tower services are provided remotely.

Illinois Legislation Would Permit Unsolicited Proposals for South Suburban Airport
Illinois State Sen. Napoleon Harris has introduced legislation stating that nothing in last year’s law welcoming a public-private partnership to develop long-planned South Suburban Airport would prohibit Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) from accepting an unsolicited proposal for this purpose. The long-planned airport is now intended to be a domestic and global freight airport rather than competing with O’Hare and Midway Airports for passenger service. The law also requires IDOT to begin the public-private partnership procurement process by June 30, 2024.

Sovereign Wealth Fund Seeks Malaysia Airport Operator
Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional is the lead member of Gateway Development Alliance,
which seeks to acquire Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the country’s largest airport operator. Aviation Daily (May 23) estimates the value of the bid at $2.6 billion. Other consortium members are BlackRock’s Global Infrastructure Partners, Employees Provident Fund, and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. MAHB operates 39 airports in the country plus Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport.

JFK New Terminal One Bonds Rated BBB-
Fitch has given a BBB- rating to $1.5 billion of special facilities revenue bonds to partly finance the long-term P3 that is developing New Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The rating reflects development risk typical of transportation megaprojects, with the total cost of this project in the vicinity of $9 billion. The first phase of this new terminal is scheduled to open in mid-2026, generating the first revenues for the P3 investors.

Lilium Announces New Progress on eVTOL Program
Startup eVTOL company Lilium raised $114 million in late May, while continuing discussions with the German and French governments about loan guarantees. In France, the company is also in serious discussions about building an assembly plant, although its German facility can build 400 aircraft per year. Earlier this month, Lilium signed a collaboration agreement with Chinese Shenzhen-based Bao’an District to establish a regional headquarters there.

Auckland City Council to Sell Remaining Airport Shares
Infralogic (May 30) reported that the city council plans to sell its remaining 11% stake in Auckland International Airport and put the expected $700 million (US) into its new Auckland Future Fund. This is an example of infrastructure asset recycling, in which a government sells or leases a revenue-generating asset and uses the proceeds for other infrastructure. In Auckland’s case, the other uses may include local roads and transit, water supply, and flood control.

FAA Reauthorization Law Would Prevent State Takeover of Atlanta’s Airport
A provision championed by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in the FAA reauthorization law would prohibit the state legislature from future attempts to take control of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport away from the Atlanta city government. The last such attempt took place in 2019 when the city was under a federal investigation of corruption. That measure passed Georgia’s state senate but died in the state house. It turns out that existing law already prohibits the takeover of a federally-aided airport without the current operator’s consent, as noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Budapest Airport Partly Nationalized
The populist government of Hungary bought out the P3 consortium that previously owned Budapest Airport. AviAlliance, GIC, and CDP agreed to the purchase, which based the airport’s value at 20 times EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation & amortization). Buying the airport were state investment fund Corvinus (80%) and Vinci Airports (20%). The sellers’ concession extended to 2080, had the buyout not occurred.

Portugal Plans Replacement of Lisbon Airport
The Portuguese government has decided to replace the congested Lisbon airport with a larger one across the Tagus River, farther from downtown. The new airport is planned to be completed and opened in 2034. Whether the new airport will be a P3 was not announced. Separately, the government is proceeding with plans to privatize flag carrier Air Portugal, one of the few remaining EU airlines still owned and operated by a national government.

Three Privatized UK Airports for Sale
Ferrovial and Macquarie Asset Managers plan to sell Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Southampton Airports. Infralogic reported (June 12) that among those interested are pension fund CPPIB, airports group AENA, IFM Investors-backed Manchester Airports Group, and infrastructure fund Stonepeak. The current owners plan to sell 100% of the asset, whose estimated EBITDA is £90 million. The airports are served by British Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa as well as Easyjet and Ryanair.

FAA Announces More Launch Information for Space Data Integrator
On June 7, FAA announced that two more space launch companies will now report tracking data to the agency’s Space Data Integrator. Sierra Space and Virgin Galactic will join SpaceX in reporting near-real-time telemetry data on launches and re-entries that take place in U.S. airspace. The result will be less airspace needing to be closed to air traffic and for shorter time periods during launches and re-entries.

San Diego Plans $100 Million Revamp of Brown Field Airport
Two years ago, Industrial Realty Group proposed a large-scale plan to turn the 880-acre Brown Field general aviation airport into a major commercial operation, including a new terminal and customs inspection facility, new commercial hangars, and over a million square feet of retail space. FAA approved the plan, and last month the ground-breaking ceremony took place. The project is intended to make Brown Field more attractive as a reliever airport for San Diego International Airport.

Finland Considering Airport and Railroad Privatizations
Last month, the government of Finland announced that it is reducing the lower limit on state ownership of airports and railroads, no longer requiring them to be 100% state-owned. The new limit for Finavia airports and railroad company VR Group will be 50.01%. Also opened to part-privatization were energy business Gasum and postal service Posti, where only 33.4% state ownership will be required. Finavia owns and operates 19 airports while VR Group operates freight and passenger railroads across Finland and portions of Sweden.

 » return to top

Quotable Quote

“First, [remote towers offer] cost efficiency. ANSPs are able to reduce costs at small airports where traffic volume is not enough to keep them economically viable. . . . Second, with air traffic forecast to increase by an average of five percent a year, remote towers and their new technology will help manage this increase through using existing personnel and their knowledge and expertise in a more cost-effective way. RTs also enable increased opening hours, further improving capacity. Third, they enable ANSPs to provide services in remote places that have no ATC provision at the moment, for example ‘non-towered’ airports in the USA. . . . Fourth, the technology enables the operation of remote contingency towers like the one at London Heathrow. This enables the airport to continue to operate if the main tower becomes unavailable. Fifth, and most importantly, remote towers enhance safety and the service that ATC can offer. Remote towers have many features that improve observation and thus enhance safety.”

—Jeff Poole, CANSO Director General, Remote & Virtual Tower Conference, London, Feb. 4, 2016

 » return to top