Wired Magazine went behind the scenes at MITRE as part of a lengthy look at the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia airspace redesign project. The tone is neutral leaning towards boosterish, though at least one dissenting NATCA voice was included. A brief excerpt:
Controllers will start testing the new departure gates and arrival posts over the next two years, but they’ve been using the modified takeoff headings for months. All the planes leaving Newark used to depart along fairly similar courses, but the redesign’s “dispersal” headings aim to reduce delays by fanning flights out across the sky. [..]
[EWR tower controller Louis] Caggiano isn’t buying it. “They don’t work,” he says with a brevity that suits the simplex radio plugged into his ear. In the lab, the second plane is always ready to go when the first one leaves the ground. But the pilots at Newark aren’t robots, and they don’t move as quickly as the simulation. The airborne flights may be banking according to the new plan, but often the next takeoff isn’t even positioned at the runway centerline yet. Even so, the FAA’s analysis shows that dispersal headings alone are increasing the number of takeoffs by an average of two per hour. (A typical rush hour at Newark sees 40-something departures.) And this is only the first piece of the redesign. Patience, [MITRE strategist Joe] Hoffman says. “The controllers are working on a scale of minutes,” he says. “We’re looking at a scale of years.”
If you’ve heard of DayJet Corporation, the JPDO, NASA’s Langley Research Center, or the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, then you know a little something about the career trajectory of Bruce Holmes. Over a 30-year period, Holmes went from flight instructor and test pilot, to aeronautical engineer, to a Chief Strategist role at Langley, to advocate for the decentralization of passenger aviation in the United States. After a stint at the JPDO in the office’s early days, he joined Ed Iacobucci at DayJet Corporation — the world’s first digitally-managed, per-seat on-demand air taxi service.
In this wide-ranging interview — one of his first since DayJet Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection — Holmes talks to Fly NextGen about DayJet’s final months, the future of per-seat on-demand, and what’s needed to make NextGen a reality.
On DayJet’s potential: “We were convinced that we could produce efficiency gains at least in the range of 15 percent, and quite a bit more than that, in many cases.”
On the Eclipse 500: “The airplane [..] wasn’t quite ready for intensive utilization. We needed the ability to create a fleet dispatch reliability of 90%; this was not possible at the early stage of maturity of the airplane, meaning we depended on having many more aircraft in the fleet than those required for revenue service.”
Hurdles for NextGen: “The hard part in front of us is that industry has some major decisions they would make but cannot because of the absence of policy on the part of government. The simple truth is that the legacy carriers are not in a position financially to adopt new technology. They just can’t.”
No national vision? “Right now, there is a sort of brain block between the federal sector and the state and municipal level in terms of public policy for funding infrastructure at small airports for this fairly new purpose of public transportation to and from smaller airports. [..] We don’t have a national air transportation policy.”
From the Grand Forks (ND) Herald:
Opening more North Dakota airspace to unmanned aircraft will now be a priority for the Federal Aviation Administration, one of the agency’s top officials said Monday in Grand Forks.
By summer 2010, the agency should have a solution in place, said Hank Krakowski, the chief operating officer in charge of air traffic control.
He was accompanied by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Gov. John Hoeven, who convened a meeting of key government and military leaders at UND to talk about the airspace issue.
[..] Asked if, after 2010, unmanned aircraft would have the same freedom as manned aircraft, Krakowski was cautious. “We want (unmanned aerial vehicles) to be able to do their missions.”
[..] Last week, Dorgan became the chairman of the commerce subcommittee on aviation, the Senate body where all legislation pertaining to the FAA starts.
This was the jackpot for the local effort to turn Grand Forks into a center for unmanned aircraft operations and research, according to a business leader involved.
Dorgan said he’s particularly interested in modernizing the nation’s air traffic control infrastructure, which would make it easier for unmanned aircraft to operate with manned aircraft.
While modern unmanned aircraft have sophisticated sensors that can spot man-sized targets from high in the air in the dark of night, the FAA is concerned that remote pilots won’t be able to look around them and see imminent collisions as easily as pilots of manned aircraft.
This concern wouldn’t exist if all aircraft were directed by air traffic controllers. But many private aircraft operate at low altitude and outside the purview of the FAA. It is the risk of colliding with those aircraft that has made the FAA hesitate.
“That’s the crux of the problem,” Krakowski said.