- 5G and aviation: the aftermath
- Automation to prevent runway overruns
- A new threat to airline deregulation
- FAA’s Metroplex nears completion
- Why mid-size airports consolidate their terminals
- Privatized airports add capacity and win awards
- Upcoming Aviation Event
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
Well, AT&T and Verizon turned on their new 5G towers in much of the United States this month—and aviation has not ground to a halt. The majority of the U.S. airline fleet, it turns out, have radar altimeters which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now judged can be operated at most of the airports where the telecom companies have at least temporarily taken measures to reduce possible interference with altimeters and other avionics. But most commercial landings thus far have not been under serious low-visibility conditions. Flights that would have to use radar altimeters to land safely at some airports under Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) conditions would have been canceled under current FAA protocols.
The question I asked in the November and December editions of this newsletter—how FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) could have done so little after receiving the October 2020 Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) report identifying serious signal interference risks—has not been fully answered. FAA did notify the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the problem in late 2020, as noted in a front-page Wall Street Journal article on Jan 21. When FCC ignored this warning, the aviation community, led by US DOT, should have carried out a large-scale public information campaign right then, prior to the FCC spectrum auctions. Had that occurred, the bidders would have taken into account the possible need to modify their tower locations and strength near airports and might have bid somewhat less than the $80 billion the government received.
Another question is why this problem has not occurred in other developed countries. A partial answer crossed my screen as I was writing this month’s issue. CNN Business posted “Europe Rolled Out 5G Without Hurting Aviation. Here’s How,” by Charles Riley and Joseph Ataman, to whom we should be grateful. As they report, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) told CNN Business: “The technical data received from EU manufacturers offers no conclusive evidence for immediate safety concerns. . . . At this time, EASA is not aware of any in-service incidents caused by 5G interference.” And the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority had basically the same message.
However, this is not a case of he-said, she-said. There are real differences in how 5G is being implemented in Europe, compared with the United States. The underlying U.S. aviation concern is that some 5G signals could be emitted at frequencies slightly above the assigned band, where they could overlap the signals used in radar altimeters and other onboard avionics.
In Europe, the authorized 5G spectrum is between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz. But in this country, the 5G spectrum bought by ATT and Verizon is 3.7 to 3.98 GHz. Radar altimeters operate between 4.2 and 4.4 GHz, which sounds like it’s sufficiently separated from 3.98 GHz. But the RTCA report and other data suggest that spurious signals in the 3.98 range could interfere with radar altimeters unless the 5G towers are located far enough from runways to make that impossible. France’s National Frequency Agency worked with its aviation safety regulator to ensure that 5G antennas near 17 major French airports comply with limits on height, distance from runways, and power output, and are also required to be tilted away from flight paths.
No such coordination between FAA and FCC took place, either before or after the 5G spectrum auction. This is a serious institutional failure, and thus far no one has been held accountable.
“Runway excursions” is the aviation term for any unintended departure of a plane from the runway, such as running off the end due to various factors. Research by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that 25% of all airline accidents from 2005 to mid-2019 involved a runway excursion—the most frequent type of accident. Late last year saw the release of a Global Action Plan for Prevention of Runway Excursions (Gappre)—a two-year international effort coordinated by Eurocontrol and the Flight Safety Foundation. (See Sean Broderick’s story, “Eye on Excursions,” Aviation Week, Nov. 22, 2021)
Aer Lingus has been working on this problem for several years, and one of its findings is that dealing with such risks requires both data and coordination. As Broderick reported, “Issues such as runway surface conditions that involve multiple stakeholder groups—pilots that analyze and report them and air traffic controllers that pass the information along—require collaboration.”
They also cry out for replacing manual, subjective information with automated data reporting.
In the September issue of this newsletter, I reported on such a solution to deal with a different problem: en-route turbulence. Pilot reports (Pireps) on turbulence are subjective, often late, and are not necessarily passed along by air traffic controllers to following aircraft. A system called Turbulence Aware automates this process. It was developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, working with Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines.
A reader of the newsletter emailed in response to that article, telling me about an analogous system to automate reporting of dangerous runway conditions. It’s called SafeLand and was developed by Aviation Safety Technologies. The system makes use of real-time data already available from the aircraft’s flight management system about runway conditions and available braking friction (especially when there is water, ice, or snow on the runway). The real-time reports can be sent immediately to incoming aircraft, airport operations, and air traffic controllers. SafeLand complies with a recent ASTM International Standard (E3266) for Friction-Limited Braking Measurements, released in November 2020.
I learned from someone who was present that this then-new technology was presented to FAA leadership about a decade ago, but the agency could not endorse it because of a policy “against promoting a commercial product.” Of course, at that point, there was no ASTM standard on which a request for a proposal for a generic real-time runway condition-reporting system could be based. Now there is, and FAA people (along with experts from Airbus and Boeing) were among those drafting it. There is also now a Global Reporting Format—a standardized methodology to assess runway conditions.
Last summer, Transport Canada announced that it would release an Advisory Circular (AC 700-0060) that defines both Pilot Braking Action Reports and Aircraft Braking Action Reports (ABAR). It makes clear the precision and accuracy of the latter. FAA has been following this development, and I’m told that it is working on a similar Advisory Circular to be released for comment this year. It is also rumored to be considering a methodology to determine compliance with the ASTM standards and to authorize aircraft operators and airports to use ABAR technologies.
It’s been a long journey from that decade-ago briefing to FAA leadership, but the stars seem to be coming into alignment for this impressive technology to reduce runway overruns in bad weather. In my view, it’s long overdue.
The vast majority of economic regulation comes from executive branch agencies, not from Congress. The Fall 2021 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions released in December contained a new Department of Transportation (DOT) rulemaking project on Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees. At first glance, many would view this as a positive endeavor. Who, other than greedy airlines, could be against enhanced transparency of ancillary fees on baggage and seat selection? But a review of the regulatory record suggests this rulemaking is part of a broader effort to enhance regulatory power at the expense of consumer welfare.
This story begins with the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. Signed into law by President Jimmy Carter, the legislation was the product of a rare bipartisan recognition that industrial regulation can go too far. It eliminated most economic regulations on airlines and set in motion the termination of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), leading to extensive airline competition and much lower airfares, which consumers still enjoy today.
It was followed by the Civil Aeronautics Board Sunset Act of 1984, which specified the remaining powers that would be transferred to the U.S. Department of Transportation following the termination of the board on Jan. 1, 1985. Among them was a general prohibition of unfair and deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition, initially created by the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 and known colloquially as the Aviation Consumer Protection Authority. As amended, it covers conduct related to air transportation and the sale of air transportation and is currently codified at 49 U.S.C. § 41712.
Around the same time that Aviation Consumer Protection Authority oversight was changing hands from the disbanded CAB to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) similar but broader consumer protection oversight powers were being modernized to better reflect mitigating economic factors.
Specifically, FTC internal practice was evolving to adopt two necessary standards of proof to enforce the broad statutory prohibition on unfair or deceptive acts and practices. The first requires that conduct must be “likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers themselves.” The second requires that conduct “not [be] outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” The FTC Act Amendments of 1994 formally codified these standards of proof at 15 U.S.C. § 45(n).
These reforms were made at a time when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, and they earned bipartisan support. Similar language was included in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 covering the enforcement responsibilities of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also when the federal government was fully controlled by Democrats. Unfortunately, while bipartisan recognition of these mitigating economic factors exists in virtually every other federal consumer protection context, Congress to date has not taken up reform of DOT’s similar Section 41712 Aviation Consumer Protection Authority.
Congress’s failure to act has allowed DOT to use its nebulous Aviation Consumer Protection Authority to expand its power and chip away at the successful reforms of the Airline Deregulation Act. During the Obama administration, this authority was used to promulgate dubious regulations on airfare advertising (limiting carrier dissemination to consumers of information related to government taxes and fees), airfare refunds (outlawing true non-refundable ticketing and putting upward price pressure on airfares), and on-tarmac delays (increasing cancelations and travel delays). DOT began a rulemaking under this authority to ban in-flight cellular voice calls, but this was mooted when Congress passed an explicit ban on voice calls as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
The Obama administration also initiated a series of rulemaking projects on ancillary fees. At the most absurd point, they attempted to expand their power to cover “metasearch” websites like Google Flights as regulated ticket agents, even though these websites were not involved in the sale of air transportation. They conceded “quantifiable costs of this rulemaking exceed the quantifiable benefits” and then tried to justify this cost-benefit failure by claiming that “unquantified benefits,” such as “improved customer goodwill towards ticket agents,” justified going ahead, but the clock ran out on this proposal.
During the Trump administration, this broader ancillary fee regulatory effort was put on ice. DOT also moved to do what Congress has failed to do: defining the Aviation Consumer Protection Authority with FTC-style standards of proof that account for mitigating economic factors (14 C.F.R. § 399.79(b)).
Unfortunately, the Biden administration appears to be looking to reverse this progress at harmonizing federal consumer protection authorities and return to using the Aviation Consumer Protection Authority as a chisel to the Airline Deregulation Act. The first Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions of the Biden administration in Spring 2021 indicated the administration had planned to publish a proposal amending the hearing procedures of the final rule on Defining Unfair or Deceptive Practices aimed at increasing the speed in which an Aviation Consumer Protection Authority regulation can be imposed. These amendments were publicly released on Jan. 24.
The Fall 2021 Unified Agenda also contained a new rulemaking project on Enhancing Transparency of Airline Ancillary Service Fees, where the proposed rule is estimated to be published in June 2022. The Spring 2022 Unified Agenda should indicate to what extent the Biden administration plans to embrace the Aviation Consumer Protection Authority as the primary tool for re-regulating the airline industry without the consent of Congress. Importantly, the Jan. 24 rule designed to limit procedural protections during the evidentiary hearings that precede Aviation Consumer Protection Authority rulemakings notes that DOT plans a separate interpretive rule “that would more clearly apprise the public of the Department’s interpretation of the definitions of ‘unfair’ and ‘deceptive’”—this likely means watering down the FTC-style standards of proof.
All of this is particularly concerning because a crackdown on ancillary fees and airfare unbundling would do disproportionate harm to the ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) that have been driving airline competition in recent decades. Any policies that have a negative disparate impact on ULCCs are likely to further entrench legacy carriers’ market positions during the recovery from COVID-19, resulting in higher airfares and reducing consumer welfare. Policymakers should instead continue “placing maximum reliance on competitive market forces and on actual and potential competition” (49 U.S.C. § 40101(a)(6)) as required by the Airline Deregulation Act.
An article in the Winter 2022 issue of Managing the Skies presents an update on the tenth (of 11 planned) FAA Metroplex projects that are redesigning the airspace in large metro areas, aiming to save time and fuel while reducing noise exposure near the airports. The article focuses on the Metroplex restructuring in Las Vegas, encompassing not only McCarran International (LAS) but also general aviation fields such as Henderson Executive Airport (HND) and nearby Nellis Air Force Base.
Among the changes made were to de-conflict approach and departure routes for each airport, separating airline traffic from business and general aviation traffic, enabling instrument approaches to seven McCarran International runway ends (up from only three), and implementing continuous descent approaches for airliners. Those are all worthwhile changes, and according to the article (prepared by Mitre Corporation, which assisted FAA on the project), the 10 Metroplex projects that are finished are saving airspace users $41 million per year in fuel costs and reducing CO2 emissions by 123,000 metric tons per year. That sounds impressive, but on a per-metro-area basis, that works out to only $4.1 million in fuel savings and 12,300 tons of CO2.
In August 2019 the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) released AV2019062, assessing Metroplex progress by then. OIG noted that the program was taking longer than planned: the original completion date for the projects was 2017, but the estimated completion date had been pushed back to 2021 (and is now 2022). The most-complex and most-congested metro area (New York/New Jersey) was left out, despite the likely benefits being far greater there than at any of the other Metroplex locations, and as of 2019 Phoenix had been de-listed, due to extensive litigation over new noise exposure from the revised arrival and departure routes (which concentrated noise over certain neighborhoods, while reducing the square miles impacted by aircraft noise). In addition, the benefits were coming in about half of the level that had been projected at the outset of Metroplex. At the Northern California Metroplex, measured benefits were actually negative (i.e., more fuel and CO2 emissions were reported than prior to Metroplex).
The OIG researchers noted that FAA’s benefit projections depended on the judgments of subject-matter experts, rather than empirical data. They also noted that a lot of the benefits assumed widespread use of performance-based navigation (PBN), for which as of 2019 a significant fraction of the airline fleet was still not equipped. And on the air traffic control (ATC) side, it also assumed widespread implementation of technology tools such as time-based flow management (TBFM) in en-route centers and terminal-area sequencing and spacing (TSAS) in TRACONs. As of 2019, neither was in widespread use, and the current Mitre article provides no data on how much that situation may have improved. While more narrow-body and wide-body airliners may now be PBN-equipped, most regional airline aircraft are not so equipped. Controllers are still not comfortable mixing PBN and non-PBN planes in arriving traffic.
To get a more balanced assessment of Metroplex, we will have to wait until the Office of Inspector General does a final report on the program, once South/Central Florida is finally wrapped up. Since I live beneath that airspace, the only thing I’ve noticed is more departures from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) flying over my house.
Several weeks ago I got an email from a reporter in St. Louis wanting to understand why St. Louis Lambert International Airport was considering replacing its current terminals with a single new facility, at considerable expense. The plan, developed by consulting firm WSP, calls for removing existing Terminal 2 and creating a new 62-gate terminal incorporating some design features of the current Terminal 1, totaling 1.6 million sq. ft.
But why consolidate into a single terminal? At the time of this query, I had just read an article in Airport Business about a project getting under way at Southwest Florida Regional Airport (RSW) in Ft. Myers, FL. This $331 million project will consolidate the security checkpoints, remodel the existing terminal space while adding 71% more square footage. While RSW is a much smaller airport than STL, the motivations for the changes are parallel.
Creating a consolidated checkpoint area in itself conserves airport floor space and makes Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening more efficient, since airlines may have somewhat different peaks and valleys in-flight activity. And TSA screeners will have smoother day-long flows through the consolidated checkpoint compared with peaks and valleys at concourse-specific screening points. The same kind of redesign is nearing completion at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) serving Washington, DC. The new consolidated checkpoint area now serves all four concourses in the main terminal, gates 10-59.
A second major benefit of consolidation is to give passengers a much wider array of shops and eating places post-security. With the older design, passengers were limited to the concessions located on the concourse from which they were departing. The few shops and restaurants prior to security did less business than they would have done post-security due to passengers hesitating to take the time for a meal if the security lines were long, and taking time for a meal might lead to missing their boarding time. There should be significant increases in non-aeronautical from the consolidated design.
I have not attempted to assemble a list of the airports that have adopted the consolidated model, but another recent project along these lines is nearing completion at Kansas City International Airport (MCI), which is replacing several smaller terminals each with its own TSA checkpoint with a new consolidated terminal. Given the advantages for both TSA and airport revenues, I think we will see more projects along these lines when airports need to expand.
Airports that have been sold to investors and airport managing companies, or that have been leased under long-term public-private partnership agreements, are still coming under fire from airline groups such as the International Air Transport Association and from ideological interest groups that consider it wrong for anyone to make a profit from providing important public services. (Of course, if that premise were adopted, there would be no such thing as investor-owned utilities.)
The contrast between anti-airport-privatization views and reality struck me while reading the December issue of International Airport Review. The cover story features the publication’s Person of the Year: Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO of Delhi International Airport, Ltd., which was privatized last decade. Among the accomplishments cited in the article is a huge improvement in processing arriving international passengers in the current COVID-19 pandemic era. What had been a 6-to-7-hour ordeal for those passengers is now only 30-45 minutes, thanks to Delhi Airport digitizing the process, via its new Air Suvidha. That system has now been adopted by every Indian airport that has international service. As as for fears of profit-minded airport businesses not investing in needed capacity, Delhi Airport is expanding its terminal capacity from 74 million passengers per year to 100 million. It is also developing a fourth runway.
Another privatized airport in the same issue of the magazine is the largest airport in Colombia. El Dorado International Airport in Bogota has won awards for its El Dorado Digital Ecosystem, which provides passengers with real-time interaction with all services at the airport, and includes both a new website and an El Dorado mobile app. Yet another privatized award winner is Montego Bay, Jamaica. The airport company MBJ Airports Ltd. replaced the old-fashioned terminal with a much larger, modern facility shortly after the privatization last decade. It took advantage of the traffic reduction during COVID-19 to accelerate additional improvements. It was the first in the Caribbean to obtain Airport Council Internation’s new Airport Health Accreditation, and in 2020 was ranked as one of the world’s Top 5 Best Airports by Conde Nast Traveler readers.
Many privatized airports are investing in capacity expansion projects, both landside (terminal expansion) and airside (runway and tower investments). London City Airport has added a full-length taxiway and switched from an onsite conventional control tower to a remote/digital tower located within a NATS control center many miles away from the land-constrained airport. London Heathrow and Gatwick are both planning runway capacity additions, assuming they can get the needed planning permission. In Germany, privatized Frankfurt is under way on a major terminal expansion, following its project that added a new runway several years ago. Among the leading privatized airports in South America, Lima is being expanded under a 30-year P3 lease that includes a major terminal expansion and an additional runway.
Privatized airports aim to make money by providing passengers and airlines with good service, and they are investing in facilities and services in keeping with this premise.
I will be the presenter in February for the monthly webinar series sponsored by RTCA. My topic will be “Why Does the United States Lag Other Developed Countries in Advanced ATC Technologies?” on Feb. 16, 2022, at 1 pm ET. To register, go here.
Air Traffic Control Complicity in Illegal Flight Diversion to Belarus
Officials of the Belarus air navigation service provider worked closely with the state security agency to use a false bomb scare to divert a Ryanair flight to Minsk, Belarus last May, so as to capture a dissident journalist and his girlfriend. A federal grand jury indicted four of those officials on Jan. 21, charging them with aircraft piracy. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has all the details in a chilling blog post here.
Brazilian Airlines Embrace eVTOLs
As Aviation Daily reported (Dec. 23), two Brazilian airlines—Azul and GOL—have made pledges to purchase eVTOL aircraft for use on inter-city routes. Azul announced a deal with Lilium to build an eVTOL network in the country, using 220 of Lilium’s under-development eVTOL. Competitor GOL announced plans with aircraft lessor Avolon for an eVTOL ride-sharing platform; it also announced plans to acquire 250 eVTOLs from Vertical Aerospace. Meanwhile, Embraer’s eVTOL spinoff, Eve Urban Air Mobility announced plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company. It also announced a letter of intent from aircraft lessor Falko for 200 of its Eve air taxis.
Should Maryland Lease BWI Airport?
An op-ed in the Washington Post, ”Maryland Should Lease Out BWI to Pay Off Its Pension Debt,” cited the estimated $2.3 billion market value of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from a 2021 Reason Foundation policy study. After paying off outstanding BWI bonds, the net proceeds from a lease would be around $1.6 billion. The authors note, “Using these [BWI lease] funds to pay down pension debt could reduce future pension costs for the state. Maryland is spending $1.8 billion a year in contributions to the pension plans, and $1.4 billion of this is going toward debt payments. Maryland could free up a portion of its budget each year by using the revenue generated from the airport lease to pay down part of this pension debt.”
Belgian ANSP to Use Drones to Monitor Ground-Based Navaids
Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) and other ground-based navigation aids such as VORs need their performance checked periodically. FAA and most other air navigation service providers use a fleet of planes to fly these inspection runs, at considerable capital and operating costs. Belgian air navigation service provider (ANSP) skeyes announced plans last year to purchase a drone system to carry out these flight inspections. It was developed by Skyguide, the Swiss ANSP, which has been using drones to carry out its own inspections. The purchase by skeyes is Skyguide’s first sale of the system to another ANSP.
Denver Contracts for Last Stage of Terminal Expansion
The Denver City Council earlier this month approved a $1.3 billion contract with Hansel Phelps to develop the third phase of the project to expand its Great Hall land-side terminal. Phases 1 and 2 cost $770 million, with the first phase completed and the second scheduled to wrap up in mid-2024. At the end of phase 3, the terminal’s capacity will be 100 million annual passengers.
Saab and LFV End Digital Tower Joint Venture
LFV, the ANSP of Sweden, and aerospace company SAAB have decided to end their joint-venture company that has developed and implemented remote digital towers in a growing number of countries since 2015. LFV originally owned 41% of Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions (SDATS), but Saab will now own 100% of the company, which is still very active in the remote tower business.
Small Airports Making Good
Two small airports have been making strong progress in recent years by specializing in specific kinds of air service. Chicago Rockford International (RFD) found its market niche by emphasizing air cargo and its location 70 miles from giant hub Chicago O’Hare (ORD). As of 2021, RFD had become the second-largest hub for UPS in North America; it is also an Amazon Air gateway. Another late-bloomer in Illinois is MidAmerica Airport (BLV), across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. With growing service from ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant, BLV handled a record 320,000 passengers in 2021, 3.4% more than in pre-pandemic 2019. The airline now serves 12 destinations from BLV, mostly in Florida.
California Appealing San Bernardino Amazon Air Decision
Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on January 4 that his office is appealing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision rejecting an environmental group’s challenge of FAA’s 2019 approval of the environmental impact of the now-operational Amazon Air cargo sorting facility. He wants the entire 9th Circuit to rehear the case that was decided by a three-judge panel of the Court. Should the appeal prevail, the consequences for airport expansion would be dire.
JFK $1.5 Billion P3 Terminal Project Groundbreaking
Ground was broken last month for the privately financed expansion and rehabilitation of JFK Terminal 4. The P3 entity is a joint venture of Delta Air Lines and JFK International Air Terminal. It will add 10 new gates and 150,000 square feet to the terminal’s footprint.
San Jose Moving Forward with Airport Connector P3
The city of San Jose released technology standards for its proposed transit link connecting Mineta International Airport with downtown San Jose. Any proposed technology must have a minimum maturity level of six (prototype demonstrated in a relevant environment). An ordinance authorizing the project will be considered by the city council in February, and if adopted, the request for proposals is expected to be issued in March.
FAA Backs Off Approving Missile Defenses for FedEx Aircraft
Earlier this month, FAA withdrew a request for comments on FedEx’s proposal to equip cargo planes that traverse dangerous areas be equipped with infrared laser technology that could foil missile attacks. The request for comments had been issued only four days before and attracted considerable media attention. FedEx’s proposal was intended to apply to a single A-321 aircraft for test and evaluation purposes.
Hydrogen’s Impact on Contrail Formation Is Complex
As Thierry Dubois reported in Aviation Daily on Jan. 11, European researchers on contrails formed from aircraft burning hydrogen as fuel have multiple impacts. Hydrogen fuel leads to more water vapor in the exhaust than kerosene, leading to more ice crystals and probably more contrails. But reduced soot emissions have the opposite effect on contrail formation. The Cirrus H2 project at French aerospace center Onera is conducting modeling and experimentation on these questions. Despite many unknowns, hydrogen is seen in Europe as the leading candidate for reducing aircraft climate impacts.
Boom Supersonic Seeking North Carolina Production Site
Local news reports suggest that Boom Supersonic is negotiating to lease a large site at Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) near Greensboro, NC. The Raleigh News & Observer said the company has been in negotiations with the airport for a 1,000-acre site near the airport’s northern boundary. Honda Aircraft has a production facility at the airport for its HondaJet.
Startup Company Radian Plans Suborbital Spaceplane
Ars Technica’s Eric Berger reported that a venture-capital-funded company called Radian is developing a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, Radian One, which could also provide airline-like suborbital flights much faster than the emerging generation of supersonic airliners. Based in Renton, WA—and currently with 18 employees—the company has been doing R&D on the concept since 2016. Its founders have NASA, Department of Defense, and aerospace company backgrounds. The Radian One prototype is aimed at taking 10,000 pounds of payload into orbit. Radian has raised $32 million thus far.
Air Traffic Organization’s COO, Teri Bristol, to Retire
After eight years as chief operating officer of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), Teri Bristol announced earlier this month that she will be retiring at the end of February. She has run ATO since 2014, succeeding David Grizzle in that position. FAA did not immediately announce plans for selecting her successor.
Fred Ford, R.I.P.
Airport management pioneer Frederick C. Ford died on Jan. 13. His long airport career included positions at Massport (Boston), Pan Am World Services, and Chicago-Rockford. In recent years, he put his airport privatization experience to good use developing the case and the organization to develop Airglades Airport, as a P3 cargo airport to supplement the limited perishable cargo capacity at Miami International (MIA). He helped create a new organization, Florida Cargo Fresh, representing major agricultural interests. His airport experience helped to get the Airglades project through the approval process at FAA. I met Fred at a transportation conference in Peoria many years ago, and I kept in touch with him during the decade it took to get Airglades off the ground. He was one of a kind and will certainly be missed.
Error in December Issue
An alert reader spotted an error in last month’s newsletter. The article “Congress Oblivious to Increased Airline Competition” mislabeled low-cost carrier Volaris as based in Hungary, rather than its actual home, Mexico. The error occurred in editing, for which I apologize.
“The telecommunications companies—we’re not their regulator. Over the last couple of months, we understand each other much better than we did before, and we’re working very effectively together. We want to enable 5G C-band deployment, make no mistake about that. But we’ve got to do it in a way so that aviation safety is not compromised. There’s a way to do that; it just requires engagement and collaboration. I’m optimistic that we will be able to achieve that.”
—FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in “FAA’s Dickson Calls for Stronger Aviation, Telecom Relations,” by Bill Carey, Aviation Daily, Jan. 20, 2022
“We were aware of a 5G issue. . . . We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States has been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere. We were not aware that the antennas themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position, which taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems but the flight control systems on the fly-by-wire aircraft. So on that basis we took that decision late last night to suspend all our services [to the U.S.] until we had clarity.”
—Emirates Airline President Tim Clark in “Emirates President: The 5G SNAFU Is the Biggest Screwup I’ve Seen in My Career,” by Chris Liakos and Richard Quest, CNN Business, Jan. 19, 2022