Future of Aviation Addressed at Chamber of
April 4, 2007
Ten million jobs are tied to air transportation which generates nine percent of the nation’s GDP. Therefore, it’s no surprise that business leaders have a special interest in issues relating to aviation. The current state of aviation, in general, and NextGen, in particular, were front and center at an April, 4 th forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington D.C. Titled “Aviation 2007: Ready for Takeoff,” the program was sponsored by the National Chamber Foundation.
Commercial and General Aviation Interests
Private jet and business leaders representing commercial and general aviation opened the program. Taxes are of particular concern for Doug Parker, CEO of U.S. Airways, who said the concept of user fees and an equal share of the tax burden would substantially help commercial airlines. Parker also pointed to the merger between U.S. Airways and America West as a model for future success. A year after consolidation in 2006, U.S. Air had the highest profit margin of any airline, an industry leading $500 million in earnings.
Jack Pelton, Chairman, President, and CEO of Cessna Aircraft Company, stressed its positive economic impact of general aviation and the role it plays in the air transportation system. General aviation, said Pelton, creates jobs, contributes positively to the trade balance, and benefits smaller communities by operating at under-utilized airports. He also stressed that the general aviation community is a fair contributor to the system through taxes, and is united in opposing proposed user fees.
The Legislative Scene
Providing legislative updates for Congress were Jim Coon, Chris Bertram, and Gael Sullivan. Coon, Republican Chief of Staff for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, addressed issues related to the FAA re-authorization bill. He said the bill will be written in May, and is slated for consideration by the full House in June.
Bertram, Republican Staff Director for the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation, said that the Senate is on the same re-authorization schedule. He emphasized that the FAA is getting the resources it needs, and the importance of a consensus. He stated that the “fight over the bill is over,” and funding is assured.
Speaking for Democrats on the Aviation Subcommittee was Gael Sullivan, Senior Professional Staffer for Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Consistent with previous speakers, Sullivan underlined the importance of consensus, pointing to Sen. Rockefeller’s continued cooperation with Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) to get the reauthorization bill through committee.
NextGen and the Future
Attention then turned to NextGen and the long-term future of air transportation. With demand projections showing a two-to-three fold increase in air traffic, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) was launched to create a system capable of meeting future demand. NextGen’s primary interest is to increase efficiency, thus allowing for substantial growth. The multi-agency Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) is charged with leading the effort to develop this system. JPDO Director Charles Leader referred to the initiative as “unprecedented” in scope.
Director Leader emphasized the importance of NextGen’s partnership with the business community, citing the roughly 230 businesses associated with the initiative. Leader pointed to the NGATS Institute, made up of industry leaders, as a key player in the development and iplanning of the system. According to Leader, industry is an essential component of NextGen, and its success depends on collaboration with the private sector. With NextGen, Leader stated that the U.S. can maintain and enhance its leadership role in international aviation.
Optimism about NextGen’s progress was shared by Monte Belger, Lockheed Martin Vice President for Transportation Systems Solutions. Belger pointed to current changes, including implementation of satellite technology, Required Navigation Performance (RNP), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), the latter currently in the trial phase. Lockheed and Boeing’s strategic relationship in support of NextGen highlighted the strength of the program and industry’s prominent role, said Belger. Addressing uncertainty about funding, Belger stressed the importance of the program, and suggested that “business leaders need to support transformation no matter how the system is funded.”
Boeing was represented by Neil Planzer, ATM Programs Vice President for Strategy who stressed the capabilities of NextGen, focusing on information sharing. ADS-B, System Wide Information Management (SWIM), and Network Enabled Operations (NEO) allow for unprecedented communication between aircraft and ground systems.
Meeting the Challenges
Thomas Donohue, Chamber president and CEO, introduced the keynote speaker, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. “Looking down the road,” predicted Blakey, “delays will increase 62 percent by 2014 without NextGen. There is simply no way we can overcome congestion of this magnitude without transforming the air traffic control system.”
Although the costs of NextGen are significant, Blakey said, the economic losses will be much greater without it. She provided estimates that delays will cost our nation $22- billion each year in lost economic activity.
The FAA Administrator said public policy decisions need to be expedited to take advantage of the technology process. To ensure success, “the move to NextGen is going to require large, predictable investments. “Aviation has come too far for us to let the great promise for this century slip away. . . . How do we keep this good thing going”?
Tom Donohue echoed Administrator Blakey’s sentiments, promising to enlist the Chamber to persuade Congress to support the administration’s NextGen Financing Reform Act of 2007. “We’re going to do it, to keep this economy going.”
House Subcommittee Takes Up NextGen
March 29, 2007
Chairman Mark Udall (D-Colorado) opened the March 29 hearing of the House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics by saying that the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is one of the most important topics his committee will address this year. Ever since the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) and NextGen were created the committee has taken a considerable interest in the progress of this initiative.
The lead witness, JPDO Director Charles Leader said that NextGen had made a lot of progress this year. The Enterprise Architecture and the Concept of Operations, two critical tools in setting the future course of NextGen, are nearing completion. Another key element of the planning phase, the baseline for the Integrated Work Plan – the process by which all the various elements, research, investment, and policy, come together to create operational improvements in the system – will be completed this summer.
Mr. Leader also pointed to two important foundational technologies, Automated Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) and System Wide Information Management (SWIM). ADS-B is funded and scheduled for deployment, while SWIM is scheduled for a final investment decision by the FAA in the near future. The capabilities of these two systems, in providing satellite based navigation and network enabled capabilities are the building blocks of NextGen. Mr. Leader also noted several related programs, to include Network Enabled Weather, NextGen Data Communications, and the NAS Voice Switch as critical programs in setting the stage for NextGen’s deployment.
In describing NextGen, Mr. Leader offered an everyday example. In many ways, he said it’s the same technology, just in a different environment as GM’s “OnStar” service. “OnStar” is a GPS based tool that’s available in many of their cars. It tells you where you are, provides navigation assistance, and can, using a digital signal, send commands to your car from a central control station.
Joining Mr. Leader at the witness table were Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Physical Infrastructure at GAO, the Honorable John Douglass, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, and Dr. Bruce Carmichael, Director of Aviation Applications Programs at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Dr. Dillingham said that the JPDO has made critical progress recently, pointing in particular to the Architecture and the Concept of Operations, but he also said that he was still concerned about the roles and commitment of JPDO’s critical agency stakeholders. Mr. Douglass echoed a similar concern and said he was particularly concerned about NASA’s commitment.
Dr. Carmichael, who in addition to his role at the National Center for Atmospheric Research also serves on the JPDO’s Weather Working Group pointed out that 60% of today’s delays in the National Airspace System are weather related. However, he said “that we have, and can continue to develop technology to impact this.” He and the Weather Working Group see improved weather research, one of NextGen’s critical components, as an important part of the answer.
One concern that was expressed by the Chairman, and several other members of the committee, dealt with NASA’s commitment to aeronautical research. They expressed concerns that changes to NASA Aeronautical Research Mission and what they perceive as a shift from critical NextGen related research could endanger the success of the initiative. Chairman Udall said this was a major concern to him and the Committee would follow up their concerns with additional questions and perhaps a hearing.
NextGen Progress Highlighted at Senate Hearings
March 22, 2007
The Senate Aviation Operations Subcommittee conducted the March 22nd hearing on the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization effort. It was held in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Hearing Room.
In his opening statement, full-committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D, HI) said, “Modernization of our air traffic control system is one of the most important challenges Congress will face as we work to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.” The hearing, attended by seven sub-committee members, centered on the FAA’s modernization efforts, with the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) as the primary focus. Witnesses included JPDO Director Charles Leader, FAA Deputy Administrator Robert Sturgell, Ms. Susan Fleming of the GAO, and Capt. Karen Lee of UPS.
Witness testimony focused on JPDO progress in implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Mr. Sturgell highlighted the successful model the FAA and the JPDO created for the transformation of the current system, and the importance of the NextGen initiative for the US to retain its role as a worldwide leader in aviation. Mr. Leader’s testimony mapped the progress the JPDO has made in identifying the backbone technologies of the NextGen system, ADS-B and SWIM. Capt. Lee emphasized the enhanced capacity and efficiency capabilities that ADS-B provides UPS in their worldwide operations center in Louisville, KY.
Aviation transformation is garnering a lot of attention on Capitol Hill. Multiple hearings regarding the FAA and NextGen are scheduled in both the Senate and the House in the next several months. Those on both sides of the political spectrum agree on the need for transforming the National Airspace System.
2006 Progress Report
The JPDO issued the "Making the NextGen Vision a Reality, 2006 Progress Report to the Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan" to Congress on March 14. This annual Report summarizes the accomplishments of the JPDO and its government and industry partners towards the planning, development and implementation of NextGen.
It can be viewed online at: https://jpdo.aero/pdf/2006_Progress_Report.pdf