Aviation Policy News: FAA’s debacle, new air traffic control tower plan, and more
Photo 264841680 / Delay © Rajesh Pandit | Dreamstime.com

Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: FAA’s debacle, new air traffic control tower plan, and more

Plus: Defending and building upon airline deregulation, calls to mandate larger airline seats, and more.

In this issue:

FAA’s NOTAMs Debacle

On Jan. 11, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of air travelers affected by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) nearly two-hour ground stop, which led to more than 11,000 flights being cancelled or delayed. The cause was a failure in FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. The direct cause was the insertion of corrupt data during an update of the system the previous day. But the underlying cause is an obsolete and dysfunctional system that should have been rethought and replaced decades ago.

Our Notice to Air Missions system is part of an international system (called AFTN), because aviation is international. It is supposed to notify pilots, dispatchers, and others about potential safety hazards at airports and along airways relevant to a planned flight. The international version began in 1920, and the format has remained mostly unchanged since 1924. The world shifted to ASCII (upper and lower case type) in 1963, but the FAA continues to use the teletype-era all-caps format.

The major problem with NOTAMs is information overload. At any given time, FAA NOTAMs may consist of 30-to-100 pages of all-caps text, with no prioritization of what might be a serious hazard and nothing highlighted for a particular air route (e.g., Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Miami International). According to an aviation group called OpsGroup, the number of NOTAMs reached 500,000 in 2006 but doubled to one million NOTAMs seven years later, as FAA and other agencies continued to add notifications of things like construction cranes that are far from runways and birds congregating at or near airports. The mindset seems to be, ‘We’d better include it, in case something bad happens, and we get blamed.’

In an online aviation discussion group that I’ve been a member of for several decades, pilots and other professionals offered many critiques of NOTAMs following the ground stop. One airline pilot pointed out that the airline dispatcher’s flight plan for a specific flight extracts for the cockpit crew the departure, arrival, and alternate airports for a specific flight, and arranges the airports’ NOTAM information in flight order, but the all-caps information for each airport is a mish-mash of everything someone could think of that might be relevant, with hazard locations indicated by latitude and longitude, loads of cryptic abbreviations, and no emphasis on what might actually be important. “Hence, flight crews can spend a long time sifting through irrelevant trivia about there being a 150-foot crane a mile from the airport, or the MDA [Minimum Descent Altitude] for a particular [visual] approach on an ILS runway being adjusted from 420 ft. to 425 ft.,” the pilot wrote on the message board.

The most startling thing I found in these discussions is that the ground stop was basically unnecessary. To quote the same pilot, “Most of the active NOTAMs will have been issued days or even weeks before, so the pilots could actually have been given the previous day’s NOTAMs and just been updated with any new stuff on that day.”

In subsequent online discussions, estimates of the number of flights that could have proceeded had this decision been made ranged from 80% to 99% of that morning’s flights.

FAA’s NOTAM system is a disgrace, yet there is no announced plan to replace its obsolete computers, its ancient all-caps type, and its failure to highlight relevant safety hazards. The agency’s 2015 “FAA Resiliency Assessment Report” listed 32 air traffic control-related systems that needed change to ensure their resiliency; NOTAM was not included.  In a Jan. 12 Reuters article, David Shepardson noted, “FAA has been trying to modernize the Notices to Air Mission (NOTAM) system,” but so far, the only tangible result has been changing its name to replace “Air Men” with “Air Missions.” That says something about FAA priorities.

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Why Doesn’t FAA’s New Control Tower Plan Include Remote/Digital Towers?

The winter issue of Managing the Skies, the magazine of the FAA Managers Association, includes a lengthy article on the extra money Congress allocated to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) via the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (also often referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law). One section of the article, “Building a New Generation of Towers,” describes FAA’s plan to replace 30 smaller control towers by 2030. It discusses the agency’s recently launched Sustainable Tower Design Initiative intended to “tap innovative minds in private industry and academia…for new approaches both to design and to rapid construction.”

The article recounts an early 1960s effort that tapped major architectural firms to develop ever-grander monuments. Alas, there is not a word in this article about remote/digital towers, and this concept is also absent from FAA’s description of the program.

Remote/digital towers are certified and in operation in half a dozen European countries. They dispense with towering buildings in favor of using an array of cameras and other sensors at various locations at an airport to feed panoramic displays in a control room either on the surface or securely underground. These facilities cost a lot less to build and maintain. They also provide better performance, for example, with infrared cameras that can see approaching aircraft through low clouds, fog, and rain. They can also electronically tag aircraft viewed on the panoramic screens, and do many other things better than 20th-century “towers.”

For replacing 30 towers at smaller airports, another possibility for low-activity airports is to control several such airports from a single remote tower center (RTC). Such RTCs are certified and in operation in Germany, Norway, and Sweden and are under development in several other European countries. Whether at single airports or for groups of several, installing digital/remote towers would be faster and less costly than constructing new 20th-century towers.

Although Congress in 2018 authorized FAA to start implementing remote towers, no such projects are under way. Two state-funded remote towers have been built and are in partial operation in Leesburg, VA, and Loveland, CO. These projects began in 2015 and 2014 and have been ready for full operation for years—but are still not FAA-certified. The agency has cooperated with the project developers and has loaned some controllers, but the endless delays in certification are beyond comprehension.

Last summer, at the U.S Contract Tower Association meeting, FAA Air Traffic Organization’s (ATO) Jeffrey Vincent told attendees that “remote/digital towers are the future.” At that time, he was ATO’s Vice President for Air Traffic Services. Recently, he was shifted to being executive director of ATO’s Drone Integration Office. The “30 by 30” program would appear to be a good fit for remote/digital towers. It would be more credible if FAA finally certified the remote/digital towers at Leesburg and Loveland. And it might help if Congress, in the 2023 FAA reauthorization bill, imposed a date after which FAA could no longer build towering edifices.

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Fixing the Air Traffic Organization’s Culture

The Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) fiasco and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) continued failure to embrace remote/digital towers are examples of a serious organizational problem. Congress created the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) in 2000, hoping that instead of being a cautious bureaucracy, it would become a “performance-based organization,” operating more like a Silicon Valley tech company to produce the world’s best, most-advanced air traffic control (ATC) system. As two decades of Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General reports have since documented, U.S. air traffic control has not been transformed. Other developed countries have pioneered remote towers, electronic flight strips, space-based ADS-B surveillance, and much more.

In 2012 the Hudson Institute commissioned me to do a peer-reviewed study of innovation within the FAA’s air traffic control system. My 54-page report was published by Hudson in Jan. 2014 (and is also available on the Reason Foundation website).

In the report, I examined seven case studies of air traffic control innovations (including controller-pilot data link, GPS landing systems, space-based ADS-B surveillance, and remote towers). In each of the seven cases, these innovations were developed and implemented sooner in other countries than in the United States (and some have still not been implemented here).

The report next offered several hypotheses to explain this difference in performance, noting that the peer countries that innovated faster and better had all separated their ATC function from their transportation agency and aviation safety regulator. The hypotheses were the following:

ATO identity as a safety agency, rather than a technology service provider. The hypothesis was that being embedded in a safety regulatory agency, rather than being regulated by it at arm’s length (as all the other aviation participants are) created an overly cautious organizational culture that is slow to implement innovation.

Loss of technical expertise. FAA engineers and software people are paid per standard federal general schedule pay categories, and work in what is, in fact, a very large bureaucracy. It is hardly surprising that many of the best and brightest can (and do) find greater satisfaction and higher pay by transitioning to private industry. This ends up putting the ATO at a disadvantage in dealing with large aerospace contractors, who sometimes design and develop more elaborate and expensive ways of meeting the ATO’s requirements.

Loss of managerial expertise. Despite Congress mandating “procurement reform,” the ATO’s procurement record features many projects that go far over budget and whose delivery extends over many years. As with engineers, the same differences in compensation and working environment lead to the best program managers being hired away by aerospace companies.

Excessive oversight. In conversations with individuals who previously served as ATO chief operating officer, I was often regaled with their frustration of having to pay attention to too many overseers: the Secretary of Transportation, the FAA Administrator, the Inspector General, GAO, Congress’s authorizing committees, Congress’s budget committees, etc. This problem applies to FAA itself as well as the ATO.

The assembled peer reviewers, all with considerable aviation and government experience, judged all four of these causes as significant, and they were generally positive about the reforms that I proposed. They were:

  1. Separate the ATO from FAA, putting ATO at arm’s length from the safety regulator, as is now the case in nearly all first-world countries, and has been International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) policy since 2001. The potential for organizational culture change would be greater if the new ATO were located somewhere other than in the FAA building—perhaps across the Potomac in a Virginia suburb.
  2. Shift from aviation user taxes to direct funding, similar to airports charging landing fees, rents, etc. This would be analogous to other federal entities that provide services to customers, such as the huge electric utility Tennessee Valley Authority. With its own revenue stream, the new ATO could issue long-term revenue bonds, like airports and electric utilities do, so that large capital modernizations could be financed up-front, rather than being paid for out of annual cash flow, which leads to very long periods to get improvements implemented systemwide.
  3. Change the governance model. Whether new ATO would be structured as a government corporation (as proposed by the Clinton administration) or a nonprofit federally chartered corporation is a decision to be debated. Both models exist in high-performance air navigation service providers overseas.

These changes are not an all-or-nothing proposition. In a 2010 article in The Journal of Air Traffic Control, former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond and I made a stand-alone case for simply separating the ATO from FAA, making the ATO a separate federal entity, located outside Washington, DC, regulated at arm’s length by FAA (as it regulates airports, airlines, etc.). We argued that “a separate ATO would be in a much stronger position to advocate for timely implementation [of new technology] and to carry this out in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

In other words, we think separation has a good chance of leading to a more businesslike organizational culture, consistent with the new ATO becoming a high-tech service business serving aviation customers. That paper, with slight updating, was posted on the Reason Foundation website.

This is not a call to revisit air traffic control corporatization, as was debated in 2017-18 and which failed to get beyond the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. The coalition that backed the bill no longer exists and shows no signs of being rebuilt. Moreover, someone inserted in the huge year-end budget omnibus bill a sentence saying, “The agreement does not support any efforts to transfer the FAA’s air traffic functions to a not-for-profit, independent, private corporation.”

But as Bond and I argued in the above paper, arm’s-length separation between FAA and the ATO would remove a potential conflict of interest (self-regulation of ATC safety), be consistent with ICAO policy and global practice, and at least offer the possibility of leading to a more entrepreneurial organizational culture. That would be a meaningful reform to include in this year’s FAA reauthorization.

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Defending and Building Upon Airline Deregulation
By Marc Scribner

FAA’s NOTAM system failure (discussed in detail in this issue’s lead article) has prompted a variety of responses, many of which misapprehend the problems faced by the aviation system and would be counterproductive if implemented. One example was an op-ed published in The New York Times by William J. McGee, a former longtime travel reviewer at Consumer Reports who is now employed by the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive advocacy organization focused on discarding the consumer welfare standard as the lodestar of U.S. competition policy.

McGee argues that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 was a mistake and that the U.S. should return to something closer to the pre-deregulation environment, when interstate air travel was operated as a government-controlled cartel. This runs counter to the evidence on airline deregulation, but McGee is right to suggest that Congress should consider new reforms to improve air travel. However, contra McGee, Americans would be far better served by preserving the gains of the Airline Deregulation Act while also extending deregulation to recognize the global nature of the industry in the 21st century.

In the early 20th century, U.S. aviation policy largely focused on the carriage of mail for the Post Office. After the Postmaster General attempted to cartelize air mail providers in the early 1930s, the resulting national scandal led to a revamp of aviation regulation. This culminated with the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which authorized the regulation of airfares, routing, mail rates, and safety. Soon after, regulators grandfathered the existing 23 carriers into the system, establishing and enforcing a new cartel of long- and medium-haul interstate trunk carriers that were shielded from market entry and price competition.

But the federal cartel did not apply to intrastate air travel. In 1949, Kenny Friedkin founded Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) to operate exclusively within California as a charter carrier. Since PSA did not operate across state lines, it was exempt from the heavy-handed economic regulation of the federal Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and instead operated under the authority of the more-lenient California Public Utilities Commission.

This exercise in regulatory arbitrage led to PSA becoming the first scheduled low-cost carrier. By the 1950s, PSA was offering airfares between Burbank and San Francisco for roughly $10, or approximately $100 in today’s dollars. For comparison, the airfares between Boston and Washington, which were about the same distance apart but served only by CAB-regulated trunk carriers, were more than twice as expensive as PSA’s fares. Friedkin’s success with PSA inspired Herb Kelleher to cofound Southwest Airlines in 1966 as a PSA-style intrastate carrier in Texas.

But it wasn’t just would-be regional carrier entrepreneurs taking notice of PSA’s low-cost model. Academic researchers were growing increasingly concerned that federal economic regulation’s focus on protecting incumbent trunkline carriers from competition was harming the welfare of American consumers.

One of those academics was future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, then a young Harvard Law School professor, who was hired by Sen. Edward Kennedy to advise his Judiciary Committee on airline competition and regulation. Another academic, economist Alfred Kahn of Cornell University, was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to chair the CAB in 1977. Kahn is widely known as the “father of airline deregulation” for leading the Carter administration’s role in developing the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which ultimately abolished the CAB that he chaired at the time.

The results of the Airline Deregulation Act have greatly benefited U.S. air travelers. Inflation-adjusted average domestic airfares fell 47% between 1978 and 2022, while passenger volumes tripled, rising more than four times faster than population growth. About 50% of scheduled interstate flights are now operated by what remains of the legacy trunk carriers, down from 100% in the pre-deregulation years. The rest are primarily operated by low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers, which now put most of the downward pressure on airfares through aggressive price competition and route entry that was outlawed prior to the Airline Deregulation Act.

While less competition and higher prices would result from McGee’s prescription, a better approach would be to build on the success of airline deregulation by extending it to foreign carriers. The European Union fully authorized cabotage rights—the operation of domestic routes by foreign-flagged carriers—in 1997. The explosive growth of low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet followed the European Union’s liberalization policies, and European air travelers now enjoy far greater access to popular destinations at much lower prices. Freeing the U.S. airline market to evolve to its global potential would likely generate significant benefits for travelers. But for this to occur, policymakers must correctly identify existing barriers to competition rather than resurrecting barriers from the past.

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Should the Government Mandate Larger Airline Seats?

In the 2018 FAA reauthorization act, Congress required the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats . . . including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length that are necessary for the safety of passengers.” FAA has not issued such regulations, based on its contention that no connection between seat size and emergency evacuation has been demonstrated. But with ongoing litigation over this by FlyersRights.org, the agency is seeking comments on standards for emergency evacuations.

Having grown up in an airline family, I recall hearing about airline employees being recruited for evacuation tests. In those days, the requirements for those tests were less stringent than today’s—there were no requirements for balanced demographics, for example. Today’s Part 25 (of Federal Air Regulations) spells out age and sex requirements, requires dolls to be used to simulate infants, forbids using certain categories of airline employees from playing the part of passengers, and includes requirements such as that only half the available exits may be used and using only onboard emergency lighting.

Yet there will always be problems with such evacuation tests. Those taking part know why they are there (hence, are unlikely to panic), know they will have to jump feet-first into a chute, will not have carry-on bags to worry about (or try to bring with them). The requirement is to evacuate the entire flight in 90 seconds, and somehow the tests seem to show that this is being accomplished in not-totally realistic tests.

There is less empirical data on this subject than we’d like. Back in 1993, the (now-defunct) federal Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) released a background paper, “Aircraft Evacuation Testing: Research and Technology Issues.” The report noted that evacuation tests are costly and “expose participants to significant hazards,” including injuries. They also simulate “only a narrow range of emergency conditions.” Also, the evacuation demonstration criteria “are inflexible, regardless of technologies that could extend the period of survivability within the cabin.”

A significant problem OTA pointed out is that human behavior in an actual emergency situation “cannot yet be reliably simulated,” and then-emerging dynamic simulations would need to be validated via psychological data that “will be difficult to obtain.” The report also noted that survivability is improving, thanks to highly fire-resistant materials and more crashworthy seats, restraints, and overhead bins.

Adding to the pressure for change, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) plans to introduce a provision in the forthcoming FAA reauthorization bill to revamp evacuation standards to include disabled passengers, the hearing-impaired, the young and the old, and non-English speakers. A Politico report on this effort noted that a 2019 FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute study found that current seat dimensions had no impact on evacuations for 99% of able-bodied Americans. But the evacuation tests on which that conclusion was based included only able-bodied adults 18 to 64—no children, older people, or disabled people.

Yet carrying out realistic evacuation tests involving children, the very elderly, and people in wheelchairs raises serious ethical and safety questions. Yet without data, any new policies will be based on good intentions and impose large costs on airlines, which will ultimately be paid for via fare increases.

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News Notes

Skycraft Plans Space-Based ADS-B Service
A Canberra-based company, Skycraft, has reached an agreement with Airservices Australia to launch and operate a 200-satellite constellation to improve ADS-B coverage in Australia and its oceanic airspace. The first satellites are scheduled for launch this month via a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral. The service will include controller-pilot communications in addition to ADS-B surveillance. Skycraft is the first competitor to the pioneer of space-based ADS-B, U.S.-based Aireon.

FAA Issues Airworthiness Criteria for Archer’s eVTOL
On Dec. 19, FAA issued the airworthiness criteria that Archer Aviation’s eVTOL air taxi must meet in order to operate. The company said it hopes to win that certification by late 2024. Archer’s prototype achieved its first transition from vertical to forward flight on Nov. 29. In addition to airworthiness, Archer will also need certification of its manufacturing, which it plans to carry out via auto company Stellantis, which has never built an aircraft.

Two Airport P3 Wins for Turkey’s TAV Airports
TAV, partly owned by Aeroports de Paris, has won a 25-year extension of its concession to operate Ankara’s Esenboga International Airport. The new concession will expire in 2050. TAV has agreed to invest €300 million to add a new runway, control tower, and cargo facilities. The airport served 7.9 million passengers in 2021’s first 11 months. Earlier this year, a consortium led by TAV reached financial close on the new Antalya Airport concession.

Major New Airport Opens in India
Early this month India’s newest greenfield airport opened. New Goa Airport (GOX) has an initial capacity of 4.4 million passengers; its ultimate capacity after several planned expansions will be 13.1 million passengers. It has been financed and developed under a 40-year P3 concession by GMR Group. Three Indian airlines are scheduled to begin service at GOX this month. Goa is one of the largest tourist destinations in India.

Bidders Lining Up for Paris Region Airport Concession
Inframation reported (Jan. 5) that major airport companies Vinci, Eiffage, Egis, and Bouygues are among those considering bids on Paris Beauvais Airport. The 30-year P3 concession has an estimated value of €4 billion. The airport served 4.6 million passengers in 2022. The current 15-year concession expires in June, and the RFP is to be released in February. Beauvais Airport is 80 km north of Paris, and was France’s 10th busiest airport in 2019.

Digital Towers and UTM Partnership Announced
In December, remote/digital tower pioneer Saab and UTM pioneer Altitude Angel announced a joint venture. Saab will integrate Altitude Angel’s Guardian UTM services into Saab’s r-TWR next-generation digital tower. Richard Ellis of Altitude Angel told Air Traffic Management that via the partnership, “Saab will be able to provide Digital Towers which are equipped and ready for our future skies, as the use of drones increases and Urban Air Mobility through eVTOL aircraft becomes a day-to-day occurrence.”

Airbus Plans High-Altitude 5G Service
Rural areas may have an alternative to costly 5G cell towers if Airbus succeeds in offering such service via high-altitude solar-powered aircraft. The vehicle called Zephyr is designed to stay aloft for months at altitudes in the 60,000 ft. range, electrically powered via solar cells. The company’s three prototypes have had several years of high-altitude testing, with the longest duration being 64 days. The concept is called high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS), and Airbus is one of a number of would-be providers. Airbus’s  Samer Halawi told Aviation Week that providing 4G/5G service in rural Mexico would cost less than half as much as using (currently non-existent) cell towers.

Joby Completes Second FAA Review
Last month Joby Aviation completed the second of four FAA system reviews for its S4 eVTOL. This “system review” is aimed at evaluating the “overall architecture of the aircraft and ensure the company’s development process is on track to satisfy FAA’s safety objectives associated with complex aircraft systems.” Joby aims to certify the S4 by late 2024. Since Joby will be manufacturing the S4 itself, its manufacturing system must be certified, in addition to the S4’s airworthiness.

Boom Selects Custom Team to Develop Supersonic Engine
In a surprise December announcement, Boom Supersonic announced that the engines to power its Mach 1.7 aircraft will be designed by Florida Turbine Technologies, a relatively new company formed by former Pratt & Whitney engineers. Manufacturing will be done by GE Additive division of GE Aerospace, while maintenance, repair, and overhaul will be done by Standard Aero, which handles those tasks for military F110 supersonic jet engines. The first flight is now estimated at 2026, with Boom aiming for FAA certification in 2029.

Graves Undecided on User Fees for New Entrants
In a Dec. 14 interview with Politico, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), who will chair the House Transportation Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee, expressed uncertainty about including some kind of user fee requirement for new users of the airspace, such as drones, eVTOLs, very high altitude aircraft, and space launch and recovery. While agreeing on the subject’s importance, Graves said he is “absolutely not ready” to commit to any specifics prior to discussions with tax-writing committees and subject-matter experts.

Virgin Islands Plans Airport P3s
The U.S. Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) has released a Request for Qualifications for a P3 concession to modernize and operate its airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix, which it describes as having “outdated facilities and unpleasant conditions” in their terminals. Qualifications from potential bidders are due March 16, and VIPA hopes to issue an RFP to a short-list of best-qualified teams by mid-March and a preferred team selected by Jan. 2024. Operators must have experience with airports handling at least 1 million annual passengers.

Bidders Lining Up for Greek Regional Airport
Four teams have submitted expressions of interest for a P3 concession to develop and operate Kalamata International Airport, the first of 23 regional airports to be concessioned. The four teams are headed by Aeroports de la Cote d’Azur, Fraport, GMR Airports, and Corporacion America Airports. Kalamata served 341,000 passengers in 2019, mostly from abroad.

Raytheon Testing Hybrid-Electric Propulsion
For planned testing of hybrid-electric propulsion in a converted DeHavilland Dash 8-100 turboprop airliner, Raytheon has begun ground-testing of its integrated power train. It consists of a one-megawatt electric motor and a Pratt & Whitney turbine powerplant adapted for hybrid operations. While these ground tests are going on, another alternative has begun flight testing at Moses Lake, WA. Universal Hydrogen has installed a one-megawatt powertrain driven by a hydrogen fuel cell, powering a Dash 8-300 aircraft.

London City Airport Seeking OK for Nine Million Passengers
Privately owned London City Airport has asked the United Kingdom’s government for an increase in its annual passenger cap from 6.5 million to 9 million. Final passenger numbers for 2022 are expected to be 3 million, with projected traffic back to pre-pandemic five million by 2024. It could exceed its current 6.5 million cap by the mid-2020s and hit nine million by 2031. Based on survey data from local stakeholders, London City will minimize early morning and late evening flights.

Brisbane Considering a Third Terminal
Australia’s Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is discussing the addition of a third terminal with its airline customers. The airport handled 23 million passengers in 2019, and its projections show 50 million by 2040. BAC is anticipating the 2032 Summer Olympics to be held in Brisbane. Current plans call for investing $3.3 billion to upgrade its two existing terminals over the next decade, but BAC expects the third terminal will be needed to properly handle 2032 traffic.

Commercial Space Video
My colleagues at Reason TV interviewed me about my recent Reason article contrasting NASA’s method of operation and that of the emerging commercial space launch industry. They produced an excellent documentary, released around the time of NASA’s Artemis 1 launch. You can watch it on Reason TV or on its YouTube channel.

Correction to Last Month’s Article in FAMs
In the Dec. 2022 issue’s article about TSA’s Federal Air Marshals, I erred in stating that the United States and Israel are the only two countries with a program of armed guards on some commercial aviation flights. Reader Tom Windmuller emailed to inform me that Turkey also operates such a program, of which I was not aware.

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Quotable Quotes

“[T]here’s no question in my mind that the ATC system is antiquated and is not taking advantage of new technology. To quote Peter DeFazio, this whole ‘NextGen’ in many cases, we’re implementing technologies from the ‘90s, and Peter calls it ‘NeverGen.’ It’s [about] having a more agile system because technology is just going to move even faster. So how do we have a system in place in regard to training, in regard to procurement, in regard to testing, to where we can continue to take advantage of newer technologies and more-efficient systems.”
—Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), in Oriana Pawlyk, “Politico Pro Q&A: Rep. Garret Graves, ranking member, House Transportation Aviation Subcommittee,” Politico Pro Transportation, Dec. 26, 2022

“The market for 30-seat aircraft is going to be a magnitude higher than the market for 19-seat aircraft. There’s just a lot more utility—and given the constraints that airports are going to face with growing demand—a lot more appetite for 30-seat aircraft. You can fly a lot more routes profitably, and so we were more than advocates—we were insistent that the move up to 30 seats [by Heart Aerospace] was the right decision. Once we laid out the logic to Anders [Forslund] and his team at Heart, they were all in.”
—Mike Leskinen, United Airlines VP, Corporate Development, in Ben Goldstein, “United Exec Hints at Stretched Heart ES-30 Variants,” Aviation Daily, Dec. 23, 2022

“Why address this question [airline ownership and control] via ICAO at all? This is a question for like-minded states and groups of states. In 2009 IATA launched its Agenda for Freedom, as a platform for like-minded states to mutually exchange waivers of the requirements. This was fully supported by the European Union, as well as 10 states, including, interestingly, the USA. Those were different times. The USA has been the go-to stop-the-conversation-stone-dead answer whenever this issue has been considered in the past. This was on the back of an unholy alliance of engineers and pilots who saw their jobs disappearing, on the one hand, and the military on the other, which argues that they need the right to requisition [U.S.] aircraft capacity at any time to move troops.”
—Andrew Charlton, “Who Owns Ownership and Control?” Aviation Intelligence Reporter, Nov. 2022

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