Aviation Policy News: How Competition Will Reshape U.S. Airlines, FAA’s New Space Launch Policy, and More
ID 103413365 © Badahos | Dreamstime.com

Aviation Policy Newsletter

Aviation Policy News: How Competition Will Reshape U.S. Airlines, FAA’s New Space Launch Policy, and More

Plus: Progress on rural broadband, remote tower progress—and opposition—in Europe, electric VTOLs heading toward certification, and more.

In this issue:

How Competition Could Reshape U.S. Airlines

A study released earlier this month by McKinsey & Company asks the question, “Will airline hubs recover from COVID-19?” The short answer appears to be “probably yes,” but major airlines may consolidate into fewer hubs where existing ones are not widely separated from one another. McKinsey’s study is global and a lot of it focuses on Europe, where the same dynamic of large legacy carriers vs. low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) that we see in the United States is also playing out. But there is one major difference: in this country, nearly all airports have the ability to add service from the challengers, whereas most large airports in Europe are rigidly slot-controlled.

First, let’s look at how traditional low-cost carriers JetBlue and Southwest are reshaping their networks rather than simply cutting back during the coronavirus pandemic. JetBlue, for example, gave up all 17 of its former slots at Long Beach Airport and shifted that service to Los Angeles Internationa (LAX). In September, JetBlue announced 24 new routes aimed at leisure travelers, with new service from Newark and LAX to destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is also expanding service at leisure destinations Tampa and Fort Myers. Southwest, while eliminating some routes, has been “predatory and opportunistic” in adding new cities to its network. Unlike its early days when it focused on secondary airports, it is now moving aggressively into major, legacy-dominated hubs such as Miami (American), Chicago O’Hare (American and United), Houston Intercontinental (United), and Newark (United). As a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal explained, Southwest has less debt and lower costs than the other majors, enabling it to make aggressive moves into what formerly were fortress hubs of those legacy carriers.

On a smaller scale, ultra-low-cost carriers Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit are also expanding aggressively, targeting mostly domestic leisure travel. Allegiant announced seven new routes in August, with new service to Florida cities Punta Gorda and Sarasota from Chicago Midway, Houston Hobby, and Boston, plus new service linking Palm Springs to Eugene, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho. Allegiant cites passenger surveys showing strong preferences for nonstop, point-to-point routes that are its basic business model. Frontier is expanding aggressively, thanks to its low operating costs and a healthy balance sheet. It has launched new routes from Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, and Miami. And it has 158 Airbus planes on order. Spirit is operating at 80 percent of pre-pandemic capacity as of this month. It reached a deal with its pilots to avoid furloughs, in exchange for reducing pilot flight time until traffic fully recovers. It has begun service to Orange County, California, thanks to cutbacks by incumbent airlines there, and has been able to expand service at Newark.

Three things have made this increased competition possible. One is the small number of U.S. airports that have restricted access due to slots—and even some of those have had unused capacity that competitors could move into. Another is the long-term decline in (pre-deregulation) long-term lease-and-use agreements (the “residual-cost” model) under which legacy carriers received veto power over terminal and gate expansion in exchange for signing the long-term leases. As those old agreements expire, a growing number of airports are replacing them with “compensatory” agreements that lack the “majority-in-interest” veto power of legacy carriers. A third factor is the gradual introduction of common-use facilities at airports, such as check-in counters and departure gates. This comes naturally to airports that are operated as commercial businesses since it maximizes the use of a given number of gates and the amount of ticket lobby space, which are expensive and valuable resources.

For these reasons, when we reach a post-pandemic period, air travel in the United States should be more competitive than before. That will make legacy carriers’ recovery more difficult, but it will be a great boon for airline passengers.

» return to top

Electric VTOLs Heading Toward Certification

In both Europe and the United States, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from start-up producers are in the early stages of certification. In this country, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using Part 23 (general aviation) Amendment 64, with special conditions for manned and unmanned eVTOLs. And in Europe, safety regulator EASA last year established Special Condition VTOL standards for this new certification category.

Most of the start-ups in both regions are developing urban air taxis, under the urban air mobility (UAM) concept. But one of the most interesting eVTOL developers is Germany-based Lilium. On Nov. 12, it announced that its first U.S. operation will be short-haul inter-city service, using its five-passenger ducted-fan eVTOL. It has signed a contract to build a vertiport at Lake Nona, near Orlando, Florida. Its aircraft has a claimed range of 185 miles at a speed of 185 miles per hour. The plan is to link up to 15 Florida cities from its base, including Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa. Fares would be comparable to business class, Lilium says. Its first European network will be based in North Rhine-Westphalia, with initial vertiports in Cologne/Bonn and Dusseldorf.

In a six-page overview article in the August 17-30 issue of Aviation Week, Graham Warwick provided a detailed overview of the emerging eVTOL developers. He identified four main design concepts, with the number of known developers in parentheses: Tiltdtucts like Lilium (18), tiltwings (11), tiltprops (10), and winged multicopters (10). Joby, noted in last month’s issue as proceeding to FAA certification, is another tiltduct design, of which three are at or nearing the start of certification.

Startup Beta Technologies, developing a six-passenger, 6,000-pound eVTOL called Alia, is one of two companies (along with Joby) in the third stage of a U.S. Air Force Agility Prime program, aiming to assist developers toward FAA certification and identify military applications. In Europe, another eVTOL besides Lilium is aiming for EASA certification. Volocopter is aiming to get its VoloCity multicopter certified by 2022. The two-passenger craft is aimed at urban air mobility, including airport shuttle service, and is working with Fraport to gain access to Frankfurt Airport.

Few of the many eVTOL vehicles are being planned as autonomous vehicles, but some are being designed with either remote-pilot or fully-autonomous operation in mind as a future modification.

In earlier issues of this newsletter, I have expressed skepticism about the near-term ability of aviation safety regulators to certify such unconventional vehicles, about the technical viability of fully electric propulsion, and about the economic viability of urban air mobility (except as a very high-end service). Given all the money raised by these (mostly) start-up companies and the progress on certification by FAA and EASA, I’m now less skeptical about certification. I’m taking performance claims (such as Lilium’s) with a grain of salt and am still skeptical about the economics of either inter-city or urban air mobility via eVTOLs. That said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

» return to top

Remote Tower Progress—and Opposition—In Europe

Spain is about to join the growing number of countries with remote (or digital) towers—airport surveillance provided via a multitude of cameras and other sensors and managed from a control center on the ground, sometimes scores or even several hundred miles from the airport being controlled.

In the first of two Spanish developments, the Menorca Airport (serving the Mediterranean island of that name) will install a Kongsberg Remote Tower System to serve that airport. Working with Kongsberg on the project will be Avinor Air Navigation Services (the air navigation service provider of Norway) and Gesnaer Consulting. The system will use the same Ninox technology that is operational at Avinor’s remote tower center in Bodo, Norway. That center so far controls two of the 15 relatively small airports in the plan. The system for Menorca will likewise be capable of controlling multiple airports.

Spanish airport company Aena, the world’s second-largest airport operator by revenue, has selected Searidge and FerroNATS for a remote tower to control traffic at Vigo Airport. Searidge is a Canadian aviation technology company partly owned by Nav Canada. FerroNATS is a Spanish company that operates 13 control towers under contract with Enaire, Spain’s ANSP. Those towers include Cordoba, Murcia, Seville, and Valencia. As with the Kongsberg project, the remote tower center developed for Vigo will be capable of serving two additional airports, to be selected later by Aena.

Since 2015, remote towers have become operational in Germany, Norway, and Sweden and are in the planning stages or under development in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, in addition now to Spain. This growth has now raised alarms at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which is calling for international regulations over remote tower development and operations, and saying that RTs “should not be driven by pressures to reduce costs.” U.K.-based ITF says it is affiliated with 700 trade unions worldwide, encompassing 20 million workers. Its new document is called, “Safe Skies: The ITF Approach to Remote Tower Operations.” It urges air traffic controllers to resist transitions to remote towers that are based on cost savings.

A case in point is the ongoing battle in Scotland’s highlands and islands, where Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. (HIAL) is seeking to shift tower services from six small airports to a new remote tower center in Inverness. A number of controllers at those remote airports don’t want to move to Inverness and are trying to derail the remote tower center plan. Their union, Prospect, claims that shifting to remote tower service would lead to “downgrading” two of the airports, something that has not been observed in comparable multi-tower operations in Germany, Norway, or Sweden. HIAL says it is willing to negotiate with the union but refutes claims that shifting to remote operation would be “deeply damaging,” as Prospect claims.

» return to top

What Are the Real Risks of Getting Infected on Airliners?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the fear of getting infected in the close quarters of an airliner cabin is keeping millions of people away from flying. Needless to say, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are eager to reassure air travelers that the risk is low or even very minimal. But recent claims to that effect have come under serious question.

The most-disputed claim was made last month by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), together with Airbus and Boeing. IATA medical advisor David Powell said that out of 1.2 billion people who had flown in 2020 through September, only 44 had caught the virus in flight. His calculation, therefore, said the risk was one in 27.3 million. One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. David Freedman (an American infectious disease specialist) declined to take part in the announcement because the headline risk estimate was based on “bad math.” A large fraction of the 1.2 billion passengers who flew before the pandemic was known to be serious and had never been tested. So the 1.2 billion denominator in the risk estimate was clearly wrong.

MIT aviation safety expert Arnold Barnett made that and many other points in a piece for The Hill on Nov. 3: “The Real Coronavirus Risk on Airlines.” He also cited papers in recent medical journals about specific recent international flights in which numbers of people became infected. His own estimate is that the risk of catching the coronavirus on a U.S. domestic flight that is 75 percent full is “one in several thousand,” with a death risk of “about one death per million passengers.” By contrast, the U.S. death risk from crashes is one per 34 million passengers.

A less-reported study carried out by the military’s U.S. Transportation Command carried out tests on the spread of particles in the cabins of a 767-300 and a 777-200, the most common aircraft used to transport military personnel and their families under the Patriot Express program. The week-long simulations used mannequins with and without masks in an array of seating configurations and measured the “elastic scatter” of airborne particles. It found that the time required to be exposed to an infectious dose was at least 54 hours when seated next to an infected mannequin in coach, and over 100 hours in the other cabins. But the simulation only included one infectious passenger per plane and did not simulate people moving around, such as going to the lavatory.

Meanwhile, besides requiring masks as a condition of flying, what else are airlines doing to reduce passenger risks? The primary measure is now disinfecting surfaces that passengers and crew come in contact with while on board. Most airlines are spraying disinfectants throughout the cabins and cockpits between flights. As Scott McCartney noted in his Middle Seat column in The Wall Street Journal, most of these use a cleaning product known as Calla 1452 made with quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), which the EPA ranks in its second-highest health hazard category. Another problem with these sprays was highlighted in an FAA airworthiness bulletin on Nov. 4. Repeated use of these disinfectants may harm various aircraft cabin surfaces. Moreover, if the product gets into flight deck switches and seals it could cause electrical shorts and corrosion.

Whatever happened to listening to the science? Some months ago it was determined that the primary mode of transmission is inhaling viral particles from nearby people, not from touching surfaces (though it’s probably true that rubbing your face after touching a sneezed-upon seatback could be dangerous). Yet, the COVID-19 version of security theater may require visible efforts to clean cabin interiors to help passengers and employees feel safe during the pandemic.

Rather than using potentially dangerous aerosol sprays, however, JetBlue has deployed a new Honeywell ultraviolet cleaning system. It’s about the size of a beverage cart and has UV-C light arms that extend over the tops of seats. It delivers UV light at levels found capable of killing bacteria and viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. The system is undergoing trials at JetBlue’s bases at JFK and Fort Lauderdale. Also on the UV front, Boeing has licensed a Florida lighting company—Healthe—to produce a hand-held anti-viral UV wand that is claimed to disinfect a flight deck in less than 15 minutes.

» return to top

Progress on Rural Broadband

In the August issue of this newsletter, I questioned the push in Congress for multi-billion-dollar federal programs to provide comprehensive fiber-based broadband service to rural America—particularly when Amazon and SpaceX are investing billions of their own money on high-capacity global broadband via low-earth-orbit satellite constellations. New evidence is emerging from rural U.S. beta testers of the SpaceX Starlink system.

But first, let’s address the issue of how much download speeds rural households need. This is the subject of an important new report from the non-partisan Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), whose CEO Rob Atkinson was once appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to the Commission on Workers, Communities and Economic Change in the New Economy. In “Broadband Myths: Is It a National Imperative to Achieve Ultra-Fast Download Speeds?” two experts on the subject compare U.S. average download speeds with those of other countries, and with the requirements for things like YouTube videos, Netflix HD, and Xbox gaming. Global Speedtest data gathered by Ookla show the U.S. average at 156.61Mbps. That ranks 11th in the world but is almost identical to the 159.98 Mbps of highly-touted South Korea. Download speeds required for common tasks like those above are mostly less than 20 Mbps. So no current or near-term requirements exist for the 1 Gigabit per second that is touted by advocates of government-funded rural broadband.

In PC Magazine, Michael Kan reports on the experience of a number of rural Americans who signed up to be beta testers of the early (only 800-satellite) Starlink constellation. His title tells the story: “From Painfully Slow to Lightning Fast: SpaceX’s Starlink Makes Rural Internet Usable.” Nickolas Friedrich, who lives in central Montana, is a typical beta tester. He has been paying $120 a month for 0.8 Mbps service from the sole DSL provider in his area, which precludes downloading YouTube videos or watching Netflix. Starlink is giving him download speeds of up to 170 Mbps, which enables those kinds of things and more. The other beta testers in the article report similar experiences.

Obviously, the Starlink service, even for beta testers, is not free. It costs $99 a month after buying an antenna for $499. That’s a better deal than paying $120 a month for .8 Mbps service.  Another beta tester is a high school science teacher in rural Washington State. His previous service provided only 18 Mbps downloads, for $100 a month. Now for basically the same monthly charge, he’s getting 140 Mbps and is able to do effective remote teaching of his students. Kan points out that the service is not always that good and tends to degrade when it’s raining. That seems to be the result of the constellation having only 800 of the planned 12,000 satellites.

The ITIF report’s authors conclude their important paper by asking why federal program advocates keep pressing for universal fiber-based gigabit networks. Here is what they conclude: “Their goal is not gigabit networks; their goal is municipally government-owned networks. They oppose corporate broadband providers on an ideological basis.” And while the ITIF paper only mentions satellite broadband in passing, the preview we are now getting from Starlink beta-testers underscores my original contention that there is no case for a massive federal program to provide broadband fiber to rural America. It would be a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.
» return to top

FAA’s New Space Launch Policy
By Rebecca Van Burken

FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) issued its final rule on Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements (SLR2) that requires only a single license for all commercial space flight launch and reentry operations. It combines four separate regulations into one Part 450 rule. This rule also replaces prescriptive requirements with performance-based criteria to increase flexibility and encompass more types of launch and reentry operations. An applicant can either use a means of compliance defined in Part 450 or propose its own means of compliance that meets the safety standards of this rule. Overall, this makes it easier for launch providers to meet safety requirements, given ongoing changes in technology, and makes it easier for FAA to deal with innovation as it emerges.

This rulemaking was motivated by AST and industry forecasts that commercial space launches will dramatically increase in the near future. In 2011 there were three licensed space launches compared with 33 that occurred in FY 2020. With space tourism finally becoming a reality next year, the possibility of 100-plus flights a year may not be far away. To meet this demand AST has created SLR2 to give launch providers and AST a better and easier avenue for processing licenses. Under the old rules, each activity connected with a launch required a separate license. But now SLR2 encompasses all activities like launch, reentry, and recovery under one application. SLR2 saves both industry and FAA time and money with one application, which was sought after by both parties.

Aircraft operators offered several comments to FAA regarding the effect of space operations on the national airspace system (NAS). Recommendations included FAA implementing tools to integrate commercial space activities safely and expeditiously into the NAS. They also addressed the need for greater communication and coordination with NAS users to reduce delays and obstacles faced by both space launch and aviation (e.g., coordinated vehicle surveillance, traffic management, and hazard mitigation plans). Aviation groups also asked that they be able to identify potential NAS impacts created by this rule as well as FAA requiring licensees to identify and mitigate operational and financial impacts to NAS users due to their launches. Aviation groups also recommended that general aviation groups should be included in the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) as well as in SLR2. Other comments recommended that FAA incorporate into the rule the recommendations of the ongoing Airspace Access Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). It was also proposed that hazard mitigation plans and FAA’s accepted means of compliance should be subject to public comment.

The aviation community’s recommendations were deemed outside of the scope of this rule, but FAA said they would consider the feedback about aviation representation in future work.

Regarding how SLR2 will impact aviation, the rule’s criteria are very similar to the existing FAA standards. FAA still requires launch operators to avoid defined aircraft hazard areas and make sure there is an extremely low probability a launch could cause a casualty to an aircraft. FAA will not itself be calculating the risk a launch poses to aircraft but will require an applicant to model these concerns.

Under SLR2 applicants must also propose models that show possible vulnerabilities of their launch vehicle’s design and debris that might be generated during launch. Debris is an obvious danger to air traffic and must be considered to keep the skies safe. However, the zone in which debris can harm aircraft will not be the same for every launch. SLR2 is a performance-based rule, and hence there are not prescriptive regulations like specific altitudes that must be clear for each launch. Under this rule, a flight hazard area only needs to account for reasonably expected air traffic and will vary to consider aircraft operations near different launch sites.

SLR2 also allows companies to negotiate with FAA as to when their “launch time” begins. It no longer needs to start when the launch vehicle enters the actual launch area. This cuts down the time FAA must restrict airspace during non-hazardous activities like transporting a rocket to a launchpad. This is a positive change for both space launch and aviation, as well as for FAA, since it will reduce the stress and burdens that come with monitoring launches.

The space launch industry has responded positively to the final rule, in comparison to the FAA’s original proposal. The proposed rule was criticized as not going far enough but still being too prescriptive. With a very short comment period, the space industry was unsure if they addressed everything in the proposed rule thoroughly enough. They clearly wanted a more performance-based approach to licensing giving them the flexibility to work with FAA on licenses and safety measures tailored to each launch. This seems to be what the final rule provides. But that is a preliminary assessment, pending how the new rule works out in practice.

» return to top

News Notes

FAA to Use Aireon Space-Based ADS-B Data  
On Nov. 12, Aireon and FAA announced an agreement under which the agency will make use of data from the company’s global ADS-B system to analyze potential ongoing uses in airspace managed by FAA, both domestic and oceanic. Aireon’s ADS-B data feed will be provided to L3Harris, which operates the domestic ADS-B ground station network. Among the possible uses would be improving surveillance on over-water air routes between the Northeast and the Caribbean, commercial space launch operations, search and rescue, and airport surface operations. This is a research agreement; FAA has not yet signed up as an ongoing Aireon customer.

Air Travel Recovery Linked to COVID-19 Vaccine
IATA announced its estimates that airlines worldwide will not become cash-positive until 2022 and will burn through $77 billion in cash during the second half of 2020. However, with news of promising vaccines, a forecast from Eurocontrol suggests how much of a difference that could make. Its November forecast of European air traffic movements offered three scenarios based on when vaccines become available. With vaccines in 2021, the agency projects 2024 traffic at 103 percent of 2019 levels. A 2022 vaccine date yields 92 percent recovery by 2024, while a “vaccine not effective” scenario projects only 75 percent recovery by 2024, with full recovery as late as 2029.

Investors Keen on Consolidated Rental Car Facilities
Conrac Solutions, the firm developing the Newark Consolidated Rental Car Facility financed by the facility’s projected revenue, has announced a partnership with iCON Infrastructure, a well-known infrastructure investment fund. One of the advantages for airports in this kind of revenue-based public-private partnership (P3) is that the company assumes the risk of lower-than-forecast revenue from the facility (e.g., if car-renting declines due to developments such as autonomous ride-hailing service). In a separate development, Fitch affirmed its A rating of the Atlanta airport’s car rental facility bonds, but with a negative outlook due to the current slump in air travel.

Study Calls for Three Separate Forms of Precise Time
GPS is widely used across industries to provide precise timing, including for electricity grid operations and financial transactions. GPS World has reported on a study by Pat Diamond, a member of the U.S. National Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing Board, which calls for the creation of at least three independent methods of obtaining precise time, as part of providing GPS backup.

Dan Elwell to Retire from FAA
Dan Elwell, the FAA’s deputy administrator, who also served as acting administrator until Steve Dickson was confirmed as administrator, has announced his retirement from the agency by the end of this month. Elwell was an Air Force pilot and later a pilot for American Airlines. Prior to his appointment to the FAA, he held positions with the Aerospace Industry Association and American Airlines. In 2019, he was the recipient of the Air Traffic Control Association’s Glen A. Gilbert Award for his leadership in air traffic control modernization.

Royal Schiphol Group and Oaktree Capital Partner for P3 Projects
Earlier this month, the company that owns and operates Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and the U.S. company that took part in the long-term lease of the San Juan International Airport announced a joint venture to pursue U.S. airport P3 projects. The two companies (separately) were among the leading companies that made presentations contending for the long-term lease of Lambert St. Louis airport in 2019. The scope includes individual P3 projects at airports (such as Oaktree’s development and operation of the south terminal at Austin Bergstrom) as well as long-term airport P3 leases.

Larson Calls for DOT to Create Aviation Pandemic Plan
Rep. Rick Larsen (D, WA), chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, introduced legislation calling on the Department of Transportation to work with the Deparement of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services to develop an aviation preparedness plan to deal with future pandemics. A 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended such a plan, but no action was taken.

Gary/Chicago Airport Lands a Scheduled Operator
Though billing itself as Chicago’s third airport, Gary (Indiana) has long lacked scheduled airlines. But as of Nov. 2, it now has daily UPS air cargo (Next Day Air) service to the UPS global hub in Louisville, Kentucky. The UPS agreement with the airport gives it ramp, hangar, and office space. The Gary airport is managed and operated by AvPORTs, which has been actively seeking scheduled airline operators.

Collegiate Training Initiative Lawsuit Making Progress
A class-action lawsuit on behalf of 2,600 former students in FAA-endorsed university programs preparing them to be air traffic controllers has made headway at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The court ruled in favor of the lawsuit proceeding, thereby denying U.S. DOT’s motion to dismiss. The Collegiate Training Initiative students argue that they were discriminated against when FAA abruptly changed its controller recruitment policies during the Obama administration.

A New Alternative for GPS Backup
Two researchers at the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin have proposed a new approach for a backup GNSS (global navigation satellite systems) capability. They make a detailed case for the feasibility of providing position, navigation, and timing (PNT) service using commercial broadband low earth orbiting (LEO) satellite networks, such as those being developed by Amazon and SpaceX. The paper is “Fused Low-Earth-Orbit GNSS” by Peter A. Iannucci and Todd E. Humphreys, posted on Sept 25, 2020.

European Airports’ Financial Woes
A report last month by Airports Council International (ACI) estimated that 293 of Europe’s 740 airports will struggle to pay their bills and could become insolvent without government bailouts. As of September, passenger numbers in Europe were 73 percent below that month’s total in 2019. A major problem as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic is inconsistent quarantine requirements and slow progress in implementing COVID-19 testing at airports. London Heathrow has lost its number one position among European airports in passenger numbers, with Paris Charles de Gaulle now in first place.

DOT Completes Final Rule on Service Animals on Passenger Aircraft
DOT early this month completed work on its final rule on service animals on commercial aircraft and sent it for review by the Office of Management & Budget’s Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). That office has up to 90 days to review the rule.

China Expanding Loran as GNSS Backup
GPS World reports that China is expanding its longstanding Loran system so that it can serve to back up GNSS signals. China’s system is compatible with the Loran systems of South Korea and Russia, via the Far East Radio Navigation Service. The United States and Japan were FERNS members until they shut down their Loran systems in 2010 and 2015, respectively.

TRB Paper on Contrails
Lance Sherry informs me that the paper that he and Terence Thompson did for TRB’s Transportation Research Record, “Primer on Aircraft-Induced Clouds and Their Global Warming Mitigation Options” is now available online.

» return to top

Quotable Quotes

“You’re not going to get back to the same level of growth for some considerable time. Aircraft that have been retired will be taken out of operation permanently. And I can’t see anybody rushing out there to order significant new numbers of aircraft. . . .  [I]n the main, I think the industry is going to have to be very careful—absolutely no doubt about it—it’s never going to get back to the way it was.”
—Willie Walsh, in Helen Massy-Beresford, “Industry ‘Never Going to Get Back’ to Pre-COVID State, Walsh Says,” Aviation Daily, Sept. 25, 2020

“With airport and passenger fees alike, low-cost carriers are likely to force the rest of the aviation industry into a race to the bottom on price. Until signs emerge of a sustainable pickup in air traffic, particularly business travel, this is a race that only budget airlines can win.”
—Jon Sindreu, “Changes in the Balance of Power Are Upending Aviation,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 2, 2020

“This [slot] waiver, the ‘this time is different’ waiver, is built on trust. As President Reagan might have said, ‘trust but verify.’ With barely time to sup from the keg of victory, the lobbyists have now turned their attention to rolling over the first waiver, for Summer20, into Summer21. Rightly, new-entrant airlines like Ryanair and Wizz are pushing back. If only there was some way to keep some measure of honesty and rigorousness in the process. There is a simple solution. Our suggestion is that the coordinators monitor, like hawks, airlines’ scheduling and operations. Slot series not being used must be returned to the pool within a week. If they are not, then they lose their immunity from the 80-20 rule and are lost. If the only aim is to make things fair, then we should make them fair.”
—Andrew Charlton, “Finding or Losing a Slot to Rethink the Slot Waiver,” Aviation Intelligence Reporter, November 2020

» return to top