Monthly Archives: January 2009

NASA may receive $150m for NextGen work

from Flightglobal:

NASA’s work on the US air transport industry’s NextGen air traffic control system could see its annual budget more than doubled if President Barack Obama’s fiscal stimulus bill is passed.
Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill 2009 includes a provision to give NASA $600 million, with $400 million for climate science, $50 million for weather damage related NASA centre repairs and the remaining $150 million for NextGen.
NASA is being funded under its fiscal year 2009 budget. The US government’s financial year is October to October. The 2009 budget was to spend $74.6 million on NextGen. NASA declines to comment on the extra $150 million until the recovery bill becomes law.

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Sens. Rockefeller and Hutchison look to NextGen stimulus – but how much?

from NextGov:

Senate Commerce Committee leaders might seek to add funding to the economic stimulus package to begin modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system, as uncertainty continues over the timing and chances of a multiyear FAA modernization plan.

Senate Commerce Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller and ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison — who led the Aviation Subcommittee in the last Congress — “are in agreement that it would be an appropriate place to put in the stimulus bill some beginning help” for FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, Hutchison said. The agency’s program is designed to transform the ground-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based system.

While details — including the amount of money — are being worked out, Rockefeller said, “I don’t think you have to put in a tremendous amount.”

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Robert Herbert, Duane Woerth said locked in tight race for FAA Administrator job

From the Washington Post:

Long-time Senate aide Robert T. Herbert, in his bid for the top job at the Federal Aviation Administration, appears to be making headway against a rival backed by Washington’s labor establishment.

Herbert advises Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on transportation, defense and homeland security issues. Herbert has been locked in dogfight with Duane Woerth, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Both men are regarded within Washington aviation circles as accomplished aviators and qualified to run the agency.

Woerth was identified as the leading contender for the job early on, and has the backing of the AFL-CIO. But Herbert has been pushing back. Reid sent a letter of support on behalf of Herbert to the Obama transition team last month. Additionally, Herbert met late last week with incoming Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood, the same day LaHood was confirmed to the post by the Senate.

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Reflections on PSOD, past and future

A lengthy and fascinating article by Aviation Week’s George Larson reflecting on the legacy of PSOD (Per Seat On-demand) air travel as popularized by the now-defunct DayJet. There’s lots to think about; Larson does a great job comparing and contrasting the various models of air charter and air taxi services. Here one small excerpt:

PSOD has little appeal for charter operators who want to serve traditional markets. Magellan Jets is a newly formed company that has a unique business proposition: “Simplicity,” says president and co-owner Anthony P. Tivnan. Aimed at the higher end clientele, the service provides aircraft seven years old or newer in a range of sizes to fit the trip, which includes everything and has no addition fees or invoices. All costs are deducted from an account with $250,000 on deposit.

“The per-seat model is the wrong place, wrong time,” he says. “We’re not positioning ourselves to target fliers who travel one to three times a year. The 30-percent decline in charter has been mostly those people.” He’s also not drawn to passenger aggregation schemes. “Our customer wants the airplane,” he says. Magellan customers are primarily looking for privacy.

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US Airways to equip its A330s with ADS-B

from Aviation Week:

US Airways plans to use its long-haul Airbus A330 fleet in a new FAA trial that is expected to bring the benefits of satellite-based navigation links to congested Northeast airspace and transatlantic routes.

The US Airways project – which also includes manufacturer Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS) – is the most ambitious step yet in a wider FAA initiative to fund avionics upgrades in selected airline fleets. These early deployments are geared toward demonstrating the effectiveness of systems vital to the FAA’s NextGen modernization effort, and providing operational data needed by the agency.

In the latest trial, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) will be used in up to 20 Airbus A330s, initially at the US Airways hub at Philadelphia International Airport and then at Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas International. [..]

US Airways will retrofit the nine A330-300s it has in its fleet for ADS-B, and the A330-200s it has on order will be equipped as they arrive. This work is scheduled to begin in May, and US Airways expects to have 20 aircraft participating in the program by 2010. The A330s are considered ideal because they are predominantly used on transatlantic flights and depart from the same airport at around the same time.

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ATC transformation removed from GAO watch list

It took 14 years, but the FAA and its ATC transformation plans have been dropped from the Government Accountability Office’s “bad government” watch list, that identifies programs at high risk for fraud, waste, and abuse.

Faced with growing air traffic and aging equipment, FAA launched an ambitious effort in 1981 to modernize its air traffic control system. Key projects, however, were plagued by cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls. Because of the program’s expense-estimated at $36 billion-and its critical importance to safe and efficient air travel, GAO added FAA air traffic control modernization to the High-Risk List in 1995. GAO is removing this program from its 2009 High-Risk List because of FAA’s progress in addressing most of the root causes of its past problems and the agency’s commitment to sustaining progress. FAA’s efforts have yielded results, including deploying new systems across the country and incurring fewer cost overruns. GAO will continue to monitor the modernization as well as the transition to the planned satellite-based Next Generation Air Transportation System.

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Explainer: CDA at Atlanta-Hartsfield

The science and technology website has a brief but interesting article entitled “Continuous Descent: Saving Fuel and Reducing Noise for Airliners.” An excerpt:

Proponents hope the 90-day test at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – currently the nation’s busiest airport – will move the concept one step closer to nationwide implementation. Estimates suggest that continuous descent arrivals could save a large airline as much as $80 million per year in fuel costs alone.

“In commercial aircraft, we see anywhere between 300 and 1,000 pounds of fuel saved for each arrival,” said John-Paul Clarke, director of the Air Transportation Laboratory at Georgia Tech and an associate professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering. “With fuel cost at $3 per gallon, that would amount to as much as $600 per arrival and could really add up for the airlines at a time when they need all the savings they can get.”

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Flying NextGen in 85 years…

How’s this for a next-generation aircraft?

Finnair aircraft of the future

European carrier Finnair has put together an interesting site, in which they (with some help from Airbus) imagine what commercial air travel will be like in 2093.

Their upbeat assessment: Flying will be popular, ecological, personal, good business, and an adventure.

[Thanks to Fly NextGen reader Patrick Zoll for the heads-up on this item.]

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Karlin Toner, 15-year NASA veteran, to head DOT NextGen office

DOT 8-09
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Contact: Sarah Echols
Tel.: (202) 366-4570

Dr. Karlin Toner to Lead Interagency Coordination of NextGen

The Department of Transportation today announced the appointment of Dr. Karlin Toner to serve as the senior DOT staff advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Transportation concerning the transformation of the air transportation system. Dr. Toner will also be senior DOT staff liaison between Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) partnering departments and agencies and the Office of the Secretary.

Dr. Toner comes to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on detail from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Her appointment follows an executive order signed by President Bush on Nov. 18, 2008 to advance the transformation of the national air transportation system. The executive order directed DOT to establish within the Office of the Secretary of Transportation a staff to support the Secretary as chairman of the interagency Senior Policy Committee that is overseeing the development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

She will work directly under the Secretary of Transportation and coordinate inter-agency development of the NextGen program that also involves the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce, as well as NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the FAA.

Dr. Toner brings to her new position 15 years of experience at NASA, where she served from August 2006 to December 2008 as director of airspace systems programs. She previously held a number of key positions at NASA in aerospace and aeronautical planning and research. She has doctoral and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Toner manages the NextGen Human Factors group at the FAA.

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Costello will once again head Aviation Subcommittee

It wasn’t a surprise, but Jerry Costello was reappointed chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee this week. From the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat:

“We have a lot of work to do and I look forward to working with President-elect (Barack) Obama to enact comprehensive legislation to reauthorize the (FAA) as quickly as possible this year, and addressing air traffic controller issues has to be a major part of that process,” Costello stated.

Costello, who also served as chairman during the 110th Congress, said his focus will continue to be aviation safety, consumer and passenger issues, and the design and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

“Aviation must also be a part of infrastructure investment in any economic stimulus package, and I will continue to work with Chairman (James) Oberstar and my colleagues towards this goal,” Costello said.

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Thales ATM to demo low-cost ground surveillance package

From the FAA press release:

Thales ATM, based in Shawnee, Kan., is one of several companies interested in testing a low-cost ground surveillance system that would be installed at airports not among the 35 scheduled to receive the more expensive Airport Surface Detection Equipment–Model X (ASDE-X). The FAA asked interested companies to submit proposals and will use the field tests to determine which systems will be deployed nationwide.

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Trade groups, airlines lobby jointly for stimulus funds

from Bloomberg:

U.S. airlines and small-jet owners have joined forces to lobby for $4 billion in economic-stimulus aid, setting aside a two-year dispute over air-traffic control costs.

Nine Washington-area trade groups representing carriers, plane users such as PepsiCo Inc., and manufacturers including Boeing Co. are seeking aid to advance the government’s so-called Next Generation overhaul of air-traffic control technology. They say they want to ensure lawmakers don’t overlook aviation in the $775 billion stimulus plan proposed by President-elect Barack Obama.

“There’s recognition amongst all of us that the only way we’re going to move NextGen is if we’re united,” said Sharon Pinkerton, vice president for government affairs at the Air Transport Association, in an interview.

Those groups include the Air Transport Association, Regional Airline Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Aerospace Industries Association, National Business Aviation Association, Cargo Airline Association, Nationa Air Carriers Association, National Air Transportation Association, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

In speaking about a possible stimulus package last week, American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey told reporters he felt his industry should benefit. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“I would like to think that the airline industry would merit a great deal of attention,” [Arpey] said. Airlines, rocked by skyrocketing fuel costs through the summer, were subsequently faced with an economic slowdown that has curtailed demand.
“We seem to have experienced an almost seamless transition in which our fuel cost crisis has been replaced by a potential air travel demand crisis,” Arpey told reporters.

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Commercial air traffic down dramatically in November

From the Airports Council International (press release):

Worldwide passenger traffic dropped sharply by 8 percent in November 2008 as compared to November 2007, according to reports from the 165 key airports that participate in the monthly advance reporting system. International traffic, previously the driver of robust growth during the first half of 2008, decreased in November by 5.8 percent.

Worldwide passenger trends - through November 2008

Worldwide passenger trends - through November 2008

More sobering statistics: North American domestic passenger traffic was down 12% year-over-year; global air freight dropped 15%.

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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Charlie Leader, Director, Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO)

In our continuing series of exclusive interviews with NextGen newsmakers, we’re pleased to present an in-depth conversation with Charlie Leader, Director of the JPDO.

Some quotes:

We need to make more progress with the net-centric operations piece. The aviation information-sharing infrastructure that underpins this is just critical. We’ve made frustratingly slow progress in that area, but I think we’re poised to have that change fairly dramatically.

There’s been criticism in the past that the JPDO has created these incredibly complex plans that are not accessible to people. I think, first of all, to criticize the complexity is relatively naïve, because this is an incredibly complex project.

We have an expression in JPDO — we say that agencies are playing budget chicken. So the FAA will say, “Well, we don’t really have a requirement for that, so we’re not going to pay for it, but if DoD will pay for it, we’ll use it.” And DoD will say, “Well, we don’t really need it – actually, it looks to us like you need it.”

To read the entire interview, click here.

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Lynne Osmus named acting FAA Administrator

Osmus’ appointment is effective starting Jan 16. The announcement was buried in a White House press release identifying 45 last-minute appointments by the Bush Administration. From Osmus’ biography on the FAA website:

Lynne A. Osmus was appointed Assistant Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials on July 1, 2003. Ms. Osmus has been an executive with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 1990, and an FAA employee since 1979. She is currently responsible for the internal security programs of FAA, including security of FAA facilities, personnel security, investigations, the drug interdiction support program, and security of classified material. She also manages the agency’s Hazardous Materials Program, which provides oversight of rules governing the transportation of hazardous materials by air.

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Hot topic: biofuels in jet aviation

Two good articles in the New York Times and Scientific American on the current interest in alternative aviation fuels, hooked to this week’s upcoming Continental B737 biofuel flight test.

NYT: Continental plans to have the crew turn off and restart the right engine, the one running on the 50-percent blend of ordinary jet fuel and plant-based fuel. The crew will simulate breaking off an approach and going around, which demands high power from the engines, among other maneuvers. On board will be two pilots, a flight engineer and, because this is an experiment, 157 empty passenger seats.

Although jet fuel prices have dropped with crude oil, industry executives say they are determined to become less dependent on a single source of fuel in case prices rise again.

“It’s hard to plan a business, and buy expensive pieces of equipment that last for 20 or 30 years, when you have total uncertainty about the cost of your biggest expense,” said John P. Heimlich, chief economist of the Air Transport Association, the trade group of the major airlines.

SciAm: “We can use any kind of vegetable oil—palm, jatropha—they all have the same [chemical] backbone,” [says UOP chemist Jennifer Holmgren.] “We just adapted what we tend to do in an oil refinery for this application. This is not rocket science, we feel very comfortable scaling this up.”

She adds, however, that this fuel is not a “drop-in replacement” for Jet A1. That’s because jet fuel from petroleum contains so-called aromatics—hydrocarbon rings—that interact with the seals in current engines, helping swell them shut. “We don’t make aromatics through the vegetable oil route,” she says. “If we wanted to fly on 100 percent [biofuels], there are issues around O-rings and things like that.”

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UPDATE: Crew rest lawsuit

BusinessWeek magazine published a non-subscription article about the lawsuit brought by a group of airlines against the FAA last month.

The airlines say that the Federal Aviation Administration bypassed usual rule-making procedures and denied them the right to comment before it notified American Airlines and Continental Airlines Inc. of the new rules in late October.

The petition was filed Dec. 24 in the federal appellate court in Washington by American, Continental, UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue and two smaller carriers.

In their filing, the airlines said the new requirements would saddle them with “substantial burdens and costs.” They charged FAA did not show how the rules would improve safety.

It’s interesting that JetBlue joined the suit, given that it doesn’t currently serve destinations outside the Americas. US Airways is adding flights to Tel Aviv in 2009 and has said it wants to serve Asian destinations from Philadelphia in the future.

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AA, CO sue FAA over proposed crew rest rules

The Wall Street Journal reports (article is subscription only; brief summary here) that American Airlines and Continental Airlines have sued the FAA over a proposal that would raise the minimum rest time for flight deck crew on “ultra long-range flights.” Pilots who work these routes, defined as 16 hours or longer, must currently rest 24 hours between flights; the proposal would require 48 hours.

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Explainer: Why weather is at the heart of NextGen

An excellent set of in-depth articles (start here, continue here) by Aviation International News’ Jennifer Harrington, focusing on the critical role that weather is already playing in shaping the NextGen project.

A brief excerpt:

Weather forecasters will no longer analyze reams of data in an attempt to produce a single, uncertain forecast. Instead, the forecaster of the future will oversee an automated forecasting system that will produce a “probabilistic weather forecast.” In other words, the system will produce different scenarios based on the probability of a certain weather event occurring. “Today we have only one plan, so it tends to be conservative,” [the FAA’s Steve] Bradford said. “The [weather] automation would run through a number of different potential futures and help us come up with a plan that would allow us to maximize the use of the airspace around an airport and minimize the chance of diversions. We could plan continuously and increase efficiency.”

Among those quoted extensively: Bruce Carmichael, director of the Aviation Applications Program  at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR); Steve Bradford, the FAA’s chief scientist for Architecture and NextGen Development; Robert Gillen (Ensco’s director of engineering) and Christina Frederick-Recascino (Embry-Riddle’s VP of Research), both of whom are involved with the Daytona Beach NextGen testbed facility.

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