- Far more airliner near-misses than FAA acknowledged
- FAA’s AAM approach raises industry concerns
- Markey bill would tax business jet users
- The coming push to reduce air travel
- Rethinking aviation and greenhouse gas emissions
- Business models for eVTOLs being rethought
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
A small flurry of near-collisions on or near airport runways in the first four months of this year attracted media coverage but has had no apparent effect on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bills working their way through the House and Senate. But a lengthy article in The New York Times may get lawmakers’ attention. “Airline Close Calls Happen Far More Often than Previously Known,” by Sydney Ember and Emily Steel appeared on Aug. 21, 2023.
The Times reporters managed to gain access to federal databases not generally available to journalists or the public. In particular, they were able to review a NASA database of confidential safety reports filed by cockpit crews and air traffic controllers. In the interests of safety, making the disclosure of mistakes is not held against those reporting the incidents. The number of reports in this database has doubled over the past decade, but the reporters note that it’s not possible to tell if this is because of more people reporting or more actual incidents. For the most recent year, there were more than 300 accounts of near collisions involving commercial airlines. These incidents include both runway incursions at airports and near-misses during flights at various altitudes.
The report identifies two main factors responsible for these incidents. One is that only 43 U.S. commercial airports have automated runway-incursion detection systems, known as ASDE-X or ASSC. Both use surface movement radar (SMR), multilateration, and ADS-B and send alerts to air traffic controllers about potential collisions between aircraft or between aircraft and ground vehicles.
Despite recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to equip many more airports, the FAA has added none since 2017. Although this is a valid point, some of the runway incursions reported in the Times article took place at ASDE-X airports (such as Boston, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, New York’s John F. Kennedy, Miami, and Phoenix) and others took place at non-equipped airports such as Austin, Burbank, and Tampa.
The second, and more-urgent problem, is the egregious shortage of fully-trained controllers in FAA facilities, which I discussed in the lead article in the July 2023 issue of this newsletter. Drawing on both the recent Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General report (AV2023035) and interviews with air traffic controllers, the Times article uses graphics to show how grossly understaffed with fully-trained controllers are FAA towers, TRACONs, and high-altitude centers. Over the past decade, the number of fully-trained controllers has shrunk by 10%, while air traffic has increased by 5% (and would have increased a lot more but for the COVID-19 pandemic). Besides the shortfall in controllers, especially at busier facilities, the article also discusses the extensive use of six-day workweeks and the still-used shift called “the rattler,” which leads to sleep dysfunction.
For all the good work it has done to shed a national spotlight on this important growing safety problem, the article does not attempt to explain why: Why has the FAA not installed ASDE-X at more airports? Why has FAA failed to obtain enough funding to recruit and train air traffic controllers faster than it is losing them via burnout and retirement?
Like other tax-funded federal agencies, FAA does not propose budgets that would cover the costs of what it really needs. Each component of the U.S. Department of Transportation must submit its proposed budget for review by the White House Office of Management Budget (OMB), and a wise transportation secretary and a wise FAA administrator do not propose years’ worth of large budget increases that would be disallowed by OMB because they could not be done without an increase in aviation excise taxes, which is apparently taboo. So FAA generally gets a bit more funding each year, but not enough for a large, sustained increase in air traffic controller hiring or for the acquisition of a hundred more ASDE-X systems.
What kind of public utility—whether investor-owned or government-owned—would make such short-sighted decisions? This is why developed nations around the world have been separating their air traffic control (ATC) systems from their transport ministries, enabling them to become self-sufficient from ATC charges paid by their customers and able to issue revenue bonds to finance large capital improvements.
New Zealand began this trend in 1987, and more than 60 countries have followed suit. During the Clinton administration, Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government project proposed adapting the New Zealand model, and then-DOT Secretary Federico Pena funded a two-volume study making the case for converting our air traffic control system to a customer-funded utility.
The idea was raised again during the Obama and Trump administrations, with detailed analyses from the Business Roundtable and the Eno Center for Transportation. In both cases, defenders of the status quo prevailed. And so here we are, living with the safety consequences of an obsolete model for air traffic control.
On July 18, the FAA published its Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Implementation Plan, or Innovate28, which lays out the agency’s near-term AAM airspace integration activities. The “28” in Innovate28 refers to FAA’s goal of “integrated AAM operations at one or more key site locations by the 2028 timeframe.” Innovate28’s Integrated Master Schedule includes numerous activities and sub-activities related to vertiports, type certification of electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft, AAM operational certification, and air traffic procedures that may be required prior to an AAM operator being allowed to enter service. Despite these goals, FAA’s limited implementation efforts to date have already raised concerns from the AAM industry about the feasibility of FAA’s approach.
As was highlighted in the June issue of this newsletter, FAA recently published a proposed Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) on AAM operating requirements and pilot certification. The SFAR was the culmination of the FAA’s decision in 2022 to require AAM airworthiness certifications to take place under its “powered-lift” category rather than Part 23 rules for normal airplanes. The comment period for the proposed SFAR closed on Aug. 14.
Even before submitting their official responses, the AAM industry had publicly detailed its complaints in the press. Aviation Week reporters Graham Warwick and Ben Goldstein (“AAM Leaders Warn About Proposed Regulations for eVTOL Operations,” July 28) noted the industry took issue with several SFAR provisions, including an energy reserve requirement that could double the size of an eVTOL battery, a mandate that eVTOL pilot training be conducted in a powered-lift aircraft with dual controls when most manufacturers are developing single-pilot aircraft and an onerous full-flight simulator requirement.
Public comments from the AAM industry expressed broad disappointment with FAA’s proposed SFAR. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), representing “manufacturer consensus recommendations,” wrote that “the agency’s failure to consider [GAMA’s] recommendations in developing the [proposed SFAR] is a missed opportunity to leverage the expertise and insights of industry stakeholders who are deeply committed to the safe integration of powered-lift aircraft.”
Individual AAM developers also weighed in. Archer Aviation criticized FAA’s deviation from ICAO standards and the agency’s general failure to adopt a performance-based regulatory approach in the proposed SFAR, specifically with respect to mandated energy reserves, dual controls, and pilot certification and training requirements. Joby Aviation raised similar concerns, while Wisk Aero bluntly stated that it “believes that overreliance on old rules is a poor approach to safety and is likely to block the introduction of newer and safer aircraft and the growth and leadership of the U.S. AAM industry.”
Another broad-based industry coalition noted that FAA’s approach in the proposed SFAR failed to align with the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill, pending bipartisan legislation that will likely become law in the coming months. The Aerospace Industries Association, Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, National Business Aviation Association, and Vertical Flight Society urged FAA to consider the House bill’s language on pilot qualification, ICAO standards, and performance-based requirements for energy reserves that may invalidate FAA’s current approach to the SFAR.
While the timeline of FAA reauthorization by Congress is uncertain and an extension of the current law is expected, the passage of the bill is likely to precede FAA’s finalization of the SFAR. If FAA fails to heed these industry warnings and instead moves ahead as it initially proposed, it will likely need to reissue an alternative SFAR to comply with Congress’s FAA reauthorization bill. Given that FAA’s past policy changes have likely delayed U.S. AAM deployment by at least a year, a re-do SFAR regulatory proceeding could push back deployment even further.
Meeting Innovation28’s goal of AAM deployment at scale in 2028—in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles—will require careful consideration of AAM aircraft capabilities. Having FAA specialists “throwing stuff against the wall,” as Helicopter International Association President Jim Viola characterized FAA’s SFAR drafting to Aviation Week, won’t cut it. Instead, FAA leadership needs to recognize the peculiarities of AAM relative to conventional airspace users and identify simple, performance-based compliance pathways for these new entrants.
Last month, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) introduced a bill called the Fueling Alternative Transportation with a Carbon Aviation Tax (FATCAT). Invoking the global climate crisis and targeting millionaires and billionaires who fly on business jets, the bill would increase the current federal fuel tax on private jets from $0.22 to nearly $2.00 per gallon—which Markey calls the equivalent of a carbon tax of $200 per metric ton of CO2 emissions.
In his Aug. 10 op-ed in The Guardian, Sen. Markey says the revenue from the increased fuel tax would go into the Aviation Trust Fund and a newly created Clean Communities Trust Fund that would “support air monitoring for environmental justice communities and long-term investments in clean, affordable public transportation across the country—including passenger rail and bus routes near commercial airports.”
I have several reactions to this proposal. For one thing, it confuses a user fee and an externality tax. The portion going into the Aviation Trust Fund—which is currently a pittance compared with what comparable small commercial passenger aircraft pay—is a user tax, and nearly all other countries charge business jets weight-distance charges for using their air traffic control systems. The other portion is an externality tax, often known as a Pigau Tax after the economist who first proposed such taxes. An externality tax is intended to discourage and ultimately eliminate the externality that it targets, so if taken seriously, this kind of tax would decrease over time as the externality became less and less of a problem. That would not be a sustainable funding source for railroad and bus alternatives to flying.
On the other hand, the U.S. business jet community has no one to blame for this development but themselves. The tiny fuel tax paid by business jets does not begin to cover the cost to the air traffic control system to provide them with FAA’s ATC services. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) express outrage at any proposed increase in the jet fuel user tax, pretending that any increase would reduce business jet sales and business jet usage, harming America’s many businesses that rely on business jets. But there is no evidence whatsoever to support that claim.
All over the world, including in Canada and Australia, where there are thriving business jet communities, those aircraft pay weight-distance ATC user fees. In a 2006 Reason Foundation policy study, I used operating data on 15 business jets, ranging from the very small Eclipse 500 to the very large Boeing BBJ. Assuming a weight-distance charge comparable to Nav Canada’s, and using reported data on average annual flight hours for each of the 15 different aircraft, I calculated the net increase in ATC cost per flight hour for each of the 15. The numbers were tiny: for a Learjet 35A, it would be only a $71 increase from a then-current variable cost per flight hour of $1,786. For the much larger Gulfstream G-V, the increase would be $174 per hour on an existing variable cost of $3,193 an hour. So it was also easy to figure out for each of the 15 business jet models the breakeven point, where a more efficient air traffic control system (that was funded by user fees and run like a business) would offset the very small increase in operating cost/hour. For the Learjet, the breakeven was if the ATC system saved 5% of annual flight hours; for the Gulfstream, it was 4.9%.
Needless to say, none of this analysis ever appeared in general aviation or business aviation media. By ignoring a shift to the global system of charging for air traffic control services, U.S. business jets are now being targeted as fatcats. I could not support a punitive measure like what Sen. Markey has proposed, but after its decades of fighting real user fees, perhaps the bizjet community is now getting what it deserves.
In late June, Flight Global carried an article on a growing challenge facing European airports and airlines. Among other trends, it noted that the U.K. Climate Change Committee reiterated its recommendation that there “be no net expansion of U.K. airports” until a wider capacity framework is in place to deal with achieving Net Zero by 2050. This occurred while London Stansted Airport announced a major terminal expansion project, London Gatwick Airport submitted its plans to convert its main taxiway into a second runway, British Airways announced plans to increase short-haul operations from Gatwick, and the local authority for London City Airport rejected its application to increase its passenger cap and operating hours.
Things look even worse in other European countries. The French Transport Ministry is considering the imposition of annual flight limits at the two main Paris airports. In Belgium, the Mobility Minister in July proposed bans on night flights at Brussels Zaventem Airport, which IATA is protesting. In the Netherlands, the ongoing battle over planned flight caps and noise limits at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is subject to a new legal challenge from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. These measures are ultimately about limiting or reducing the growth of air travel in Europe.
Fortunately, nothing like this is being discussed by U.S. policymakers so far. But an initial warning flag cropped up this month in Oakland, California. The Oakland International Airport last month published a draft environmental report on its plan for an enlarged, modernized terminal building, including 16 more gates. On Aug. 15, a coalition of 60 groups held a protest over the terminal expansion. The Stop OAK Expansion Coalition argues that because of climate change, “the region should be working to phase out, rather than scale up, commercial air travel.” Phasing out air travel is more radical than anything I’ve seen in Europe thus far, but dire proposals are also being put forth there.
A report from consulting firm Bain estimates that current airline greenhouse gas reduction efforts could eliminate 70% of emissions by 2050 but will miss their net zero goals if air traffic continues to grow faster than Gross Domestic Product.
In a lead article in the August issue of Aviation Intelligence Reporter, aviation consultant Chris Lyle argued that it is time for “demand management” to reduce aviation GHG emissions beyond what is realistically achievable by 2050 via sustainable aviation fuels, air traffic streamlining, aircraft and propulsion improvements, etc. Lyle concludes that increased taxation is less viable than “capping or reducing operations.” He cites a report from the Travel Foundation that the only scenario for travel and tourism to achieve net zero by 2050 is to slow the growth of long-haul flights, limiting them to 2019 levels. That is the moderate proposal. A French think tank called the Shift Project is advocating a lifetime limit of four flights for individuals (Helen Massy-Beresford, “Industry Gatherings Spotlight Sustainability Challenges,” Aviation Week, July 3-16, 2023). The European group Transport & Environment calls for companies to reduce their business trips by 50% by 2025.
Is aviation different from other greenhouse gas emitters? French Transport Minister Clement Beaune says, “We need to think about aviation without isolating it from the rest. We must not isolate one tool in the toolbox. If we don’t use all the tools at the same time, we have no chance.”
A recent Viewpoint piece in Aviation Week by my old friend Ken Quinn, an attorney, called for “A Moonshot for Sustainable Air Travel.” Due to the huge difficulties of making aviation carbon-neutral, he called for both massive federal government investments as well as tax incentives, invoking the precedent of President John F. Kennedy’s 1960s crash program to land humans on the moon.
Allow me to put on my economist hat and offer a thought experiment. Suppose the federal government decided to allocate huge sums over the next 30 years to reduce U.S. greenhouse emissions. Ignoring politics, suppose you were tasked with deciding how to spend that money to get the most bang for the buck. One of the first requirements would be to estimate how much bang for the buck investing in each sector would plausibly deliver. This could be estimated in terms of tons of GHG reduction per billion dollars spent on each sector. Since no government has unlimited resources, the most sensible approach would be to first go after all the low-hanging fruit—the sectors in which achieving net zero by a target date, such as the year 2050, would accomplish the most for the dollars spent on mitigation. Some segments of the economy, including surface transportation and maritime transportation, would likely have much lower costs per ton than aviation. Likewise, other sectors that generate considerable GHGs, such as concrete and steel, where feasible solutions exist and are beginning to be implemented.
What if aviation turns out to have far higher costs per ton than most other sectors? I don’t know if that’s true but estimates that it would take a moonshot to do this lead me to ask whether forcing Net Zero by 2050 for aviation would be worth doing. If there are a dozen major sectors that generate the large majority of GHG emissions, and only one or two would cost hugely more per ton reduced, should only the aviation changes with a reasonable cost/ton be required? Investing huge sums in GHG reduction efforts with very low bang for the buck is a way to make an economy poorer.
Those calling for reducing aviation’s growth, or for things like lifetime trip limitations, seem to be ignoring the many benefits of global air travel. Rigorous studies of air travel benefits should be done and reviewed before aviation is forced into complying with a Net Zero by 2050 mandate that cannot likely be accomplished without harmful impacts on passengers, freight, airlines, airports, and aircraft and propulsion system producers. Major changes to aircraft design and production will take decades to even get to the point of introduction, let alone more decades to replace current aircraft.
Airline and airport organizations should consider these points, before committing to a scenarios that will not achieve Net Zero by 2050 despite massive investments or could lead to mandated downsizing of a very important, beneficial industry.
As I’ve been suggesting for several years, the initial business models of most developers of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air vehicles are increasingly being viewed as greatly over-optimistic. One sign of the times is the decision of German startup Volocopter to replace its original one-passenger (plus pilot) VeloCity with a larger version. The company still hopes to have its original one-passenger VeloCity in service for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
In an important article in Aviation Daily (Aug. 10, 2023), Ben Goldstein reviewed indications of investor caution about the profitability of first-generation eVTOLs from startups including Archer, Joby, and Lilium. “Many investors bought into electric air taxi companies in 2021 hoping to find the next Tesla, but instead they may be stuck with the next Uber,” writes Goldstein. He notes that it took Uber 15 years of operating losses to finally achieve a profitable second quarter this year. Goldstein cites the current thinking of eVTOL industry watcher Sergio Cecutta of SMG Consulting. Cecutta notes the widespread industry assumption that type certification of an eVTOL by FAA will cost about $1 billion. But since both Archer and Joby also need to be certified as operators, total certification costs are more likely to be $3 billion to $4 billion. This, in turn, suggests that the idea of $3 per passenger-mile fares is unrealistic, with something more like $8 per passenger mile needed at entry-into-service. That suggests a high-end niche market, not a mass air-taxi market. He notes that Uber subsidized about $30 billion in operating costs over 15 years, before finally turning a quarterly profit in the second quarter of 2023 after a 50% price increase.
But Goldstein also cites his discussion with Nikhil Goel, co-founder of Uber Elevate, who recently joined Archer as its chief commercial officer. Goel says Archer’s initial focus will not be on profitability but rather on expanding ridership (a la Uber). “If it takes more investment to do that, that’s an option,” he said. He also noted that each iteration of the vehicle will have better batteries and lower operating costs. Eventually, the pilot will no longer be needed, further reducing operating costs.
Goldstein also notes the change in the strategy of Lilium. It “appears to have largely abandoned its planned air taxi network for a more traditional OEM business model.” And, as I’ve previously reported, Lilium has moved away from a short-range air taxi model to regional air mobility, which strikes me as a better market niche.
Philippines Launching Airport Rehabilitation P3
On Aug. 9, the Philippines Department of Transportation planned to launch its project to refurbish the Ninoy Aquino International Airport serving Manila. It will release terms of reference by the end of August and will be accepting public-private partnerships (P3) proposals in October or November. In July, the government rejected an unsolicited proposal for a 25-year P3 concession to upgrade and modernize the airport. The rejection was based on the existence of a privately financed airport project elsewhere in the Manila metro area.
Heathrow Plans New Virtual Backup ATC Facility
Back in 2009, London Heathrow Airport opened a virtual contingency facility (VCF) that could operate 70% of airport ATC activity in the event of a major outage. It was essentially the U.K.’s first remote air traffic control tower and is located off-airport. In July, the airport announced an agreement with NATS, the UK air navigation service provider (ANSP) to develop a replacement VCF, to be operational in 2025. Initially, it will use newer technology to provide the same 70% capacity, but a planned second phase would bring it to 100%.
Leesburg Gets Interim Replacement for Cancelled Remote Tower
The town of Leesburg, VA, has reached an agreement with FAA for continued ai traffic control tower operations at the busy general aviation airport. Leesburg will rent the current mobile tower through June 2024, and FAA has agreed to pay the salaries of air traffic controllers operating from that facility for the next five years, while the town begins planning for a brick-and-mortar tower to replace the mobile facility. Leesburg risked losing tower capability when the FAA failed to certify the remote tower developed by Saab despite several years of safe and effective operations.
Drone Risk at Airports Studied by Embry-Riddle
Over a three-year period of study, researchers from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) identified 24 near midair collisions at Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, in which drones came within 500 feet of a piloted aircraft. The data collection involved ADS-B and Mode S transponder messages from piloted aircraft and information from drones collected by a DJI Aeroscope sensor installed at DFW. Of the 24 near-collisions, 11 involved airliners, seven were with helicopters, and six involved general aviation aircraft. In all but one airliner near-miss, the plane was within 1.5 miles of approach or departure and lower than 500 feet above the ground. And all but one of the drones was operating higher than the maximum of 400 feet for that area. ERAU recommends that FAA extend the exclusion zone for drones at runway ends from one mile to 3.5 miles.
Proposed Airport Sales in Australia and UK
Last month Inframation reported two proposed sales of airports, one in Australia and the other in the United Kingdom. In the former, The Infrastructure Fund has asked UBS to review the specifics of selling its 7.19% stake in Perth Airport. Nearly all the other owners are investment funds and public pension funds. Perth Airport is the fourth-busiest in Australia. In the U.K., London Southend Airport’s owner Esken started the process for a sale in June. Inframation reported that Carlyle Group’s Global Infrastructure Fund in 2021 Made a £125 million loan to Esken, convertible into a 30% stake in the airport.
LAX Selects Team for Cargo Modernization P3
For its large-scale air cargo expansion project, Los Angeles World Airports has selected a team headed by investment firm Realterm and developer JLC Infrastructure, initially under a pre-development agreement (PDA). The plan envisions a two-story multi-tenant facility encompassing five million square feet, 43 aircraft parking positions, and 750 dock doors for trucks. Assuming all goes well, the PDA will be followed by the negotiation of the long-term public-private partnership concession.
Space-Based VHF Communication on Offer from Skykraft
Australian space-based ADS-B provider Skykraft last month announced the completion of its demonstration testing of space-based VHF communications. The system uses the regular VHF band used for pilot-controller communications, which has not been available over oceans and polar areas, which lack ground-based radio facilities. The test program used the five existing Skykraft satellites that had gone through six weeks of operational testing prior to the testing of VHF communications in July.
Mexico Puts Mexico City International Airport Under Military Control
Starting last month, the main airport serving Mexico City was being run by Mexico’s navy, a year after it was in charge only of airport security. The airport had been poorly run and had a record of stolen luggage, corruption, and mismanagement. The government announced that a dozen airports will be under military control by the end of 2024.
Progress on Reducing Aircraft Contrails
In both Europe and the United States, progress is being made via efforts to route aircraft away from regions of airspace where contrails are most likely to form. It is becoming clear that contrails play a significant role in radiative forcing, trapping heat below cloud layers. Aviation Week in March reported on testing a Flight Footprint Estimator developed by Thales Avionics. Aviation Daily (Feb. 27, 2023) reported that ARPA-E is developing a contrail prediction system. And this month several media reported on a project in which American Airlines is testing a contrail-avoidance system developed by Google Research and Breakthrough Energy.
Airport P3s in Latin America and the Caribbean
The past month has seen growing interest in long-term airport P3s in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Colombia, a consortium of Pavimentos Colombia and Structure SAS made an unsolicited proposal to take over the existing P3 concession of the Ernesto Cortissoz Airport in Barranquilla. And in the Dominican Republic, airport company ASUR has agreed to purchase 25% of the company selected to develop the planned Bavaro International Airport. Its development is opposed by the companies that operate several other airports in the country. Barbados has signed a memorandum of understanding with Chile-based Agunsa and the Dubai government for the modernization and operation of the Grantly Adams International Airport. Lastly, the Puerto Rico P3 Authority announced that the feasibility study of a public-private partnership concession for the island’s nine regional airports should be completed between October and December.
Third Chicago Airport May Be a P3 Cargo Airport
The long-planned South Suburban Airport, in Will County south of Chicago, got a new lease on life last month when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that revises the public-private agreements for the South Airport Act. The bill adds language about providing “domestic freight and cargo transfer shipment,” as well as requiring the Illinois transportation department to start a prequalification process for potential P3 developers by the first of next year. The measure had been approved by large margins in both houses of the legislature.
American Launches P3 for Its JFK Terminal
Not to be outdone by airlines developing large new P3 terminals at JFK International, American Airlines joined with the Port Authority to announce a $125 million modernization of its Terminal 8. The project will create a new great hall and more than 60 new shopping and retail offerings. The selected developer is JFK T8 Partners, a joint venture of URW, Phoenix Infrastructure Group, and Holt Construction. Phoenix is putting in a 30% equity stake.
Pakistan Seeking P3 Concession for Islamabad Airport
The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority seeks bids to design, build, finance, operate, and manage Islamabad International Airport, via a 15-year concession. Qualifications are due Nov. 8, with financial proposals due later. No estimate of the amount of investment expected was available, and a 15-year term would be far shorter than normal for a DBFOM concession.
New Book on Airport Regulation
Economic Regulation of Urban and Regional Airports is a new release from Springer. It’s edited by researchers I’ve had some contact with—Peter Forsyth, Jurgen Muller, Hans-Martin Niemeier, and Eric Pels. Its 19 chapters discuss topics, such as the extent of airport competition in Europe, the impacts of airport privatization, airport slot reform, and light-handed regulation (as in Australia). There are also country studies of France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
“Eno’s work on air traffic control reform addresses the FAA’s staff challenges. Eno’s Aviation Working Group recommended that ‘a new government corporation or an independent non-profit organization’ act as the provider of ATC services in the United States. The goal would be to separate the regulatory function from the operational and ATC function of the FAA, which is like many industrialized nations like Canada, France, and Germany [have done]. Placing ATC services under a government corporation or [a] non-profit would free ATC from ‘congressional appropriations and federal procurement and personnel rules.’ This, along with a new user-fee funding structure, could have increased the capability to provide efficient air traffic control.”
—Sohail Husain, “Air Traffic Control Shortages and the Need for Reform,” Eno Center for Transportation, Aug. 18, 2023
“A huge problem with ATC staffing is that controllers have virtually no way to transfer from one facility to another. The only transfer options available are to facilities that are understaffed, which are usually places like NYC which are unattractive for a lot of controllers due to the high cost of living. Given the cost and time it takes to train controllers, FAA can’t afford to have controllers quitting due to their inability to live near their families. FAA needs to come up with some equitable way that controllers see a way to move to a facility of their choosing before they burn out and change careers. One way to deal with this would be to provide remote facilities, so you could live in Minnesota but handle airspace on the East Coast or anywhere else where there is a controller shortage.”
—Mike Schumann, email to Robert Poole, July 18, 2023