Monthly Archives: October 2008

AIA to Congress: NextGen investment is a ‘no-brainer’

The Aerospace Industry Association’s Dan Elwell testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week (press release, full text PDF), and called on Congress to fund NextGen investments through tax incentives as well as the Airport Improvement Program. Referring to the potential of NextGen technology to improve fuel efficiency, Elwell said:

At a time when congress is actively engaged in promoting economic recovery instruments and policies to protect our planet from global warming, robust investment in a single enterprise that will foster both is what we call a “no brainer.”

Elwell then went on to issue some specific requests:

1. Economic stimulus package funding increases for the Airport Improvement Program should include flexible eligibility for NextGen investments both on and off airside property. Funds to build taxiways and runways will create jobs in local districts and provide more room for aircraft, but without new NextGen approaches, new ground tracking systems, and ADS-B devices, growth at our airports will be restricted. [..]
2. One year extension of existing legislation granting accelerated depreciation for the purchase of new, environmentally friendly aircraft and the addition of new language to provide the same benefit for the purchase of commercial aircraft.

Finally, Elwell clarified that his industry was not asking for direct government investment.

AIA and its members do not support handouts or bailouts. The only economic stimulus civil aviation needs in today’s economic crisis is growth made possible by the efficiencies of NextGen, and confidence in the industry that the commitment to implement NextGen is real and on a predictable schedule.

An interesting sidenote: The committee hearing was convened by chairman Jim Oberstar in order to promote economic stimulus initiatives for the construction and transportation sectors. In his opening remarks, Oberstar made it clear that his focus was on roads, bridges and rail infrastructure, not aviation.

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Explainer: Clean air turbulence

A great column in Forbes magazine about what clean air turbulence is, why it happens, why it’s hard to avoid, and how meteorologists might soon be able to do a better job of predicting it. No specific mention of NextGen, though the author makes the point that one of the problems today is the low-resolution nature of aviation forecasts. Clearly, if the visionaries in the FAA weather group have their way, this should change within a couple of years.

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CSC buys maker of ATC simulator software

Integration giant Computer Sciences Corp. has acquired Maryland-based Xavius Technology in order to raise its game in the field of air traffic control simulation (press release). Xavius, which released its first simulator in the late nineties as a standalone software product for the PC market, has since expanded into radar training, tower simulators, and ATM software. The move is notable given that CSC is at the forefront of NextGen traffic management initiatives — for instance, their TMA system is a key component of next month’s FAA demo at the Florida testbed facility.

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How will the presidential election affect air travel?

A fine column from Joe Brancatelli, former editor of Frequent Flyer magazine and current contributor to Conde Nast Portfolio, on how our next president might shape the airline industry. Brancatelli mentions NextGen, but also examines topics ranging from reform at the TSA, to currency policy, to open skies agreements, to possible re-regulation. An interesting sidenote: his top guesses on who might be tapped to lead DOT are Rep. Jim Oberstar (Dem) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (GOP).

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FAA’s Leverenz touts Alaska Airlines approach ‘saves’

FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Ruth Leverenz spoke to the International Aviation Womens’ Association on Friday, and portrayed NextGen as the next frontier in a long line of historical breakthroughs. (Transcript here.) Also, she specifically highlighted Alaska Airilnes’ participation in an RNP program at Palm Springs International.

We are focusing deployment of RNAV and Required Navigation Performance, RNP, around our most congested airports. One of our earliest adopters is Alaska Airlines. With RNP approach procedures at Palm Springs on the West Coasts, Alaska Airlines reported that 10 percent of their flights were classified as “saves” in the first quarter of this year. Those are flights that would have been otherwise diverted to alternate airports because of bad weather. A “save” translates directly to savings for the carrier — emissions, time, passenger convenience.

Partnerships with operators equipped to perform these procedures are yielding the biggest benefits from increases in operational efficiency and reductions in fuel use and emissions. We are also seeing benefits today from the introduction of Optimized Profile Descents that have shown fuel savings averaging about 50 to 60 gallons of fuel for the arrival portion of flights. It reduces as much as 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide per arrival.

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EXCLUSIVE: Embry-Riddle’s Christina Frederick talks to Fly NextGen about politics, next month’s big test, and why she’s nervous about a ‘huge FAA shakeup’

On November 18th, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will host a demo of some key systems around ERAM (En Route Automation Modernization) and TMA (Traffic Management Advisor) at its NextGen test bed facility in Daytona Beach. It’s a high-profile moment for the University, which has been lobbying heavily for funds that will allow it to develop and implement new technologies across the ATC spectrum.

Embry-Riddle’s VP of Research, Dr. Christina Frederick-Recascino, spoke to Fly NextGen about the demo as well as a wide range of related NextGen topics, including her hopes and fears for a new administration in Washington.

To read the interview from the beginning, start here.

Selected quotes:

On Embry-Riddle’s focus: “What’s really important to think about is that NextGen is not just aviation. It’s aerospace technology, it’s engineering, it’s the impact on the traveler.” (Link)

On who’s invited to the November demonstration: “The type of people that we want at this demo are people from the FAA who need to see that these disparate systems coming from different companies can be married together and could be implemented, you know, across the country.” (Link)

Research priorities: “As global climate change emerges and storms get more severe, the integration of better weather prediction and better weather displays is something we’re very interested in.” (Link)

On the post-inauguration FAA: “You don’t want someone coming who knows absolutely nothing — that would, I think, be a real setback.” (Link)

Message to Washington: “Please don’t stop now, don’t take that money that was lined up for NextGen and say, gosh, it’s better spent somewhere else.” (Link)

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NASA to fund radical thinking on the future of commercial flight

The aeronautics research arm of NASA has awarded $12.4 million in grants to six teams, who will develop advanced concepts for commercial aircraft that could enter service around 2035 (press release). The teams, which include industry giants like Northrop-Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, as well as researchers from MIT, Purdue, Georgia Tech and Tufts, will focus on three key areas: aircraft that could operate from small airports, subsonic airliners, and supersonic jets.

All concepts are expected to be dramatically cleaner, quieter, and more fuel efficient than today’s models. NASA’s website includes details for each project as well as highly imaginative artist renderings.

[Kudos to Graham Warwick from Aviation Week for spotting this story; his article includes reactions and analysis and can be found here.]

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