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November 2004

JPDO on Board FAA Flight Plan

DOT Sec'y Mineta Speaks Out on JPDO

Doing Something About the Weather

Transformation: It's No Longer
When and Why - It's Do or Die

JPDO Integrated Product Teams

JPDO on Board FAA Flight Plan

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey recently released the agency's updated Flight Plan for 2005-2009 - and the Joint Planning and Development Office is right in the middle of it. The Flight Plan is a multi-year strategic effort, setting a course for the FAA through 2009.

Beyond the scope of the Flight Plan, is the Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) - a rolling 10-year effort to increase capacity by a third. In the longer term, the JPDO has been developing the National Plan for the Next Generation Air Transportation System for the year 2025 and beyond.

In her November 9th "State of the FAA - Leading the Way" speech delivered to all agency employees, the Administrator said, "We added new strategies for the JPDO plan that integrate better with the Flight Plan and the OEP." The Flight Plan notes that both the OEP and the National Plan are "designed to meet the Flight Plan's commitment to help the system flow smoothly and meet future needs."

The updated FAA Flight Plan also speaks directly to the JPDO's efforts to develop the roadmap to the air transportation system of the future: "It's not an easy task, considering that aviation is changing rapidly. The advent of micro-jets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), manned commercial space launches, and ever-increasing demand on the system, dictates the need for a unified approach and a transformed system." And the JPDO will be working hand-in-hand with the FAA and the other member agencies to make this vision a reality.

To read the FAA Flight Plan, go to:

DOT Sec'y Mineta Speaks Out on JPDO

"[I]n January, I launched the Next Generation initiative. I am impressed by the spirit of ingenuity and the unprecedented cooperation that has infused the work of our 'braintrust,' the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).

I am very encouraged by our progress to date. Last week, I chaired a meeting of the Senior Policy Committee, a Cabinet level inter-agency membership of top officials from each of the agencies involved in the initiative - DOD, DOC, NASA, and DOT. We have a commitment across government to provide the necessary resources, and to deliver a national plan for the Next Generation system to the Congress in December of this year.

With our vision defined, we will be on track to ensure that America is ready for the future, with a modern, agile air transportation system in place by the year 2025 that is safe, efficient, reliable, and flexible."

Sec'y Mineta's remarks were made at the Air Traffic Control Association Conference in Washington, DC on November 1, 2004. To read his full speech, go to:

Doing Something About the Weather

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
Mark Twain

"Some are weatherwise. Some are otherwise."
Benjamin Franklin

For air travelers, inclement weather is an all too real problem...even a nightmare.

During winter months, flights are delayed and countless connections are missed due to snow and ice. We have grown accustomed to news reports showing huddled travelers camped out like refugees in airport departure lounges.

During the spring and summer months, severe weather also wreaks havoc with airline schedules and travel plans. In fact, 70-75 percent of flight delays are weather related and most of those are due to thunderstorms. Unpredictable and fast moving thunderstorms raking one airport can ground aircraft thousands of miles away. Business travelers who must often take flights in the late afternoon and evening - prime severe weather time - are at particularly high risk of weather delays. And up until now, all we could do is talk about this Achilles heel of the air transportation system.

Although the JPDO can't change the weather, it can certainly work in creative and far reaching ways to minimize its adverse impact on air transportation and air travelers and make us more aviation "weatherwise." In fact, developing a system-wide capacity to reduce weather impacts is one of the eight broad transformation strategies for creating the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Mark Andrews, one of two JPDO Principals for the Commerce Department, recently sat down to discuss these efforts. He pointed out that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its parent agency, the Commerce Department, had an early place at the transformation table. Two years ago, the Aerospace Commission recommended that both participate in the JPDO and two years later both are contributing to transformation in significant ways.

Mr. Andrews noted that one of the biggest goals is improved accuracy and reliability, timeliness, and relevance of aviation weather information. This will allow the Next Generation System to not merely react to weather but to look out into the future in a proactive manner. In this regard, it is critical to have a common operational picture for those involved in air traffic management. This common picture stands in stark contrast to today, where, for example, air traffic controllers at FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers may employ five or six different forecast pictures when handling a single aircraft from Los Angeles to New York. Mr. Andrews compared this to a "football team that comes to the line without having huddled."

One of the first orders of the day for the JPDO Weather Integrated Product Team (IPT), which Mr. Andrews leads and has been in existence for a year, is to begin building a national/interagency aviation weather data base where all weather information would reside and where different products could be integrated.

Mr. Andrews underscored some obvious benefits of this approach: "The net result is that all system operators will work off of the same real time information and there will be agreement on specific weather forecasts, such as thunderstorms. The data base can also be used to provide tailored information and applications for small airports and companies, for example, which opens up some great opportunities for the private sector." However, Mr. Andrews cautioned, "You don't want to create another stovepipe. The current aviation weather system is not a 'system of systems' but rather a system of stovepipes, each doing its own thing and not connected to other critical systems like Traffic Flow Management (TFM)."

The new data base would also work in five dimensions; the current system deals in the three spatial dimensions plus time. "The next generation aviation weather system adds probability to the picture. We can then respond to probabilistic data information in a proactive manner and business and risk decisions can be made. The current system cannot adequately plan around weather; the future one will," Mr. Andrews said. Indeed, he called this change "a paradigm shift. We're getting out of the weather product business and into the weather information business."

New, integrated operational products with weather features will also allow greater decision making on the ground and in the cockpit, greatly enhancing safety and capacity - two important goals of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. Ultimately, an automated distributed data base system "could tell me how to get there; the best route to take; file the flight plan and then provide real-time updates," Mr. Andrews said.

The IPT is tasked with creating a national U.S. weather requirements plan for the Next Generation Air Transportation System in the broadest sense, not focusing only on observations, forecasting and other previously individual elements of weather. Mr. Andrews explained that existing aviation weather related policies are "fragmented and often conflicting" and that "many statutes and regulations were written in the '50s and '60s and reflect the technology of that time. They have not kept pace with change." For example, by the year 2025, technological advances will likely allow most, if not all aircraft to land in "0-0 visibility" - something unimagined 40 or 50 years ago.

Mr. Andrews went on to say that "current system rules carve out significant amounts of airspace, particularly in the enroute sector due to observed or forecast weather for safety related reasons, space that overestimates the extent of hazard." He observed that the goal is to "modify these rules by application of research and technology transition to allow these rules to be modified in such a manner to give back airspace capacity to the system without compromising safety. Safety will always be number one."

When asked about what lies ahead, Mr. Andrews noted that NASA, FAA NOAA, and DOD have already started discussion on the weather data base project. The requirements document is also a major near term focus for the IPT and they will begin to map the agencies' current efforts to support a gap analysis between the current aviation weather system and the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Mr. Andrews stressed existing aviation weather efforts are also highly valued and will continue to produce short-term tangible benefits. The JPDO member agencies will continue to press forward on research, such as the FAA's Aviation Weather Research Program, and state of the art weather tools and products, such as the National Convective Weather Forecast that will give forecasters more focused and precise weather data to make better aviation forecasts. All of these will be integrated into the system as they are delivered. "Our ultimate goal is to marry the new weather system to what the JPDO is doing as a whole," he concluded.

Finally, someone is doing something about the weather.

Transformation: It's No Longer When and Why - It's Do or Die

Transformation took center stage at the recent 49th Annual ATCA Conference in Washington, DC. JPDO Director Charlie Keegan moderated the plenary session entitled, "The Future Air Transportation System" and spoke of the profound changes that will soon be upon us. Observing that passengers and users may lose the ability to do things they take for granted today, he called the situation, "a silent crisis." He issued a challenge that this is the "time to create our future" but warned that "we will be late for the party even if we start today."

Jim Bennett, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spoke of the enormous changes affecting the air transportation system, ranging from terrorist threats to high fuel costs to the emergence of low-cost carriers. The competing business models have led to the most dramatic revolution since deregulation in 1978, according to Mr. Bennett. For example, Dulles Airport has witnessed unprecedented growth in operations due largely to the emergence of Independence Air. He said that projections indicate that Dulles will experience 600,000 operations per year in 2010 although it could reach that level in the next two years. Adding to the capacity problem is the fact the number of seats has actually dropped as most operators are using aircraft with 50 or fewer seats.

Reginald Boudinot, Senior Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton said that it is imperative to change the air transportation system as economic development is tied to the transportation infrastructure. He argued that planning must start with agreement on the vision of the future and the policy issues that must be addressed. Next, the R&D focus must be on "filling in the pieces" that will lead to the end vision air transportation system. The systems acquisition process should then apply commercial best practices with well designed business cases and the avoidance of high risk solution. Finally, a work force must be developed that can operate and manage the future air transportation system.

Doug Fralick, Director, Safety and Technology for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association saw eerie similarities between what is happening today and capacity problem that occurred more than 35 years ago. Saying that we "keep shoehorning more aircraft into places like O'Hare," he warned that the "future will be like the past." Mr. Fralick urged the construction of more airports as the current "infrastructure cannot accommodate the increased number of aircraft." He also argued for a "human-centric" air traffic control system saying that automation will not solve the present "ills."

John Kefaliotis, Vice President, Network and Transportation Systems, CSI Group, ITT Industries, sees a paradigm shift in air traffic control with more strategic planning of traffic flows. He was a strong advocate of the Attila Optimization Engine which he believes conveys a number of benefits: (1) it is highly collaborative; (2) it promotes pilot involvement in meeting the plan; and (3) it does not interfere or involve the sector controller. Saying that strategic flow management is the "new way of thinking," Mr. Keflaliotis also argued for "small steps that are achievable without major changes."

Mike Lewis, Director, Business Development, Air Traffic Management, the Boeing Company was a strong advocate for network enabled operations for the transformed system. He detailed seven steps that he believes are needed to deliver the three times capacity to meet the demands of 2025: (1) visibility removed as an aviation issue; (2) plus or minus 2 seconds arrival time precision; (3) all weather-safe airspace fully exploited; (4) two-mile final approach spacing for all; (5) pave down the middle (runways); (6) safe, multi-aircraft runway operations; and (7) all useable airports used.

Marty Phillips, JPDO Principal for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy focused on UAVs in the future air transportation system. Noting that UAVs are already doing the "dull, dirty, dangerous jobs," he said that significant requirements for their use are emerging. Mr. Phillips said that there are three principal challenges to routine UAV use in the National Airspace System: (1) public acceptance, (2) technical, and (3) operational. He observed that once the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security employ UAVs in civil airspace, civilian use can begin to follow.

JPDO Integrated Product Teams
Making the Transformation Strategies Work

The National Plan Transformation Strategies

  1. Develop Airport Infrastructure to Meet Future Demand
  2. Establish an Effective Security System without Limiting Mobility or Civil Liberties
  3. Establish an Agile Air Traffic System
  4. Establish User-specific Situational Awareness
  5. Establish a Comprehensive Proactive Safety Management approach
  6. Develop Environmental Protection that Allows Sustained Aviation Growth
  7. Develop a System-wide Capability to Reduce Weather Impacts
  8. Harmonize Equipage and Operations Globally

Who They Are and What They Will Do
For each of the eight National Plan strategies, a JPDO integrated product team, or IPT is being assembled. Some, such as the Weather IPT, are already up and running and hard at work. An IPT is responsible for applying best private and public sector practices to achieve the assigned strategy's mission and objectives.

Specifically, the IPTs will establish detailed action plans that will lead to the Next Generation Air Transportation System. Breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable parts will improve focus and allow each IPT to generate more detailed research plans and ultimately, the mechanics of how we transition to the system of the future.

The responsibility for assembling and leading each IPT belongs to one of the JPDO's member federal departments and agencies. It will bring together and coordinate experts from across the Federal Government and private industry so that all stakeholders and interested parties can participate in the transformation.

Specific IPT Activities
When it comes to transforming our current system into the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the IPTs will do the heavy lifting. They have been given a very specific charter and list of duties. They include:

  • Managing the planning and orchestrating the execution of all relevant work to complete the assigned strategy;
  • Conducting analyses and trade studies to select and validate implementation alternatives;
  • Analyzing changes currently underway, identifying gaps, and establishing the required Government and/or industry research and development activities to close necessary gaps;
  • Coordinating with Government and private industry on research and development resources;
  • Collaborating with industry on research and implementation for the initiative;
  • Identifying non-technical approaches such as policy, regulation, and operational procedures;
  • Establishing detailed requirements for individual mission areas;
  • Conducting advanced concept and technology demonstrations;
  • Creating a transition plan for implementation of products; and
  • Creating public/private partnerships that include multi-agency, industry, and Government participation.

Cross Integrated Product Team Coordination
The JPDO will orchestrate the IPTs' efforts and keep them focused on fulfilling the vision for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. To this end, the JPDO will establish an architecture council, bringing together experts from the IPTs and selected industry representatives.

A chief architect will chair the council and guide the development and coordinate an integrated system view of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. In addition, the chief architect is responsible for managing systems engineering and integration efforts. A portfolio management council will also be established to provide high-level guidance and monitor the programmatic aspects of the transformation efforts.

The JPDO will also be responsible for approving broad strategies of the IPTs and ensuring IPT plans and schedules are consistent with the roadmap and architecture. Moreover, the JPDO will establish mechanisms for direct input and participation from private sector experts and ensure that the process is transparent and fully open to public scrutiny.

Measuring Success
During this process, the JPDO must make a difference - a tangible difference felt by the users of the system. They must be confident that their government is working for them; that they are safe and secure; and that the Next Generation Air Transportation System is an efficient and effective use of their tax dollars.

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