Category Archives: news

Now available: “Fly NextGen” logo gear

Want to show off your love of aviation and your hopes for its future?
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FAA mandates ADS-B out by 2020; GA not happy

The FAA this week released its final rule on ADS-B equipage in the mid-term, mandating ADS-B Out capability by 2020 for every aircraft using airspace where a transponder is currently required. Predictably, GA groups feel that they will be made to shoulder a large financial burden that ultimately will benefit airlines and air travelers rather than private pilots, although some concessions to general aviation were made in the final rule.

Some good resources to understand the consequences and subtleties of this rulemaking:

  • Article in Air Transport World here
  • Full text of rule here (via Federal Register)
  • ATA press release here
  • Analysis of costs/benefits to GA from AVweb here
  • AOPA press release here

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US Airways CEO: NextGen? No thanks.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker says his airline has no interest in equipping its fleet with NextGen technologies on its own dime. Parker was asked a question about ATC equipage at the carrier’s media day, and Air Transport World reported his answer as follows:

“There is not a capacity issue in the United States right now as it relates to air traffic control, so putting in place NextGen ATC, while it makes all the sense in the world, isn’t going to save the airlines dramatic amounts. . .So our position is so long as we have to pay for [flight deck equipment], we prefer not to have it.”

US Airways also questioned FAA’s capacity growth estimates, saying that it sees growth in the range of 1-2% per year over the next 10 years.

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FAA: Passenger demand to jump 75%, air cargo to nearly triple by 2030

FAA’s 20-year forecast for aviation demand is out. Some highlights:

  • Total passengers on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally are forecast to increase from 704 million in 2009 to 1.21 billion by 2030, a cumulative rise of 75%.
  • Domestic passenger enplanements will increase by 0.5 percent in 2010 and then grow an average of 2.5 percent per year during the remaining forecast period.
  • U.S. airlines will reach one billion passengers a year by 2023.
  • Total air cargo Registered Ton Miles (freight/express and mail) increase from 30.8 billion in 2009 to 86.6 billion in 2030 – up an average of 5.0 percent a year, for a cumulative rise of 281%.
  • Total operations at airports are forecast to decrease 2.7 percent to 51.5 million in 2010, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent reaching 69.6 million in 2030.
  • At the nation’s 35 busiest airports, operations are expected to increase 60 percent from 2010 to 2030.

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Costello: Karlin Toner to replace Charlie Leader as head of JPDO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 19, 2010

CONTACT:  David Gillies, Rep. Costello’s office


WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, issued the following statement today regarding the announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that Dr. Karlin Tonner has been appointed Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO).  JPDO is responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

“I welcome Dr. Tonner to this critical position and look forward to working with her.  JPDO’s mission is as important as any currently before the aviation community, and I remain concerned that it is not structured in a way that gives the Director the level of authority and access needed to be effective.  I will continue to evaluate this issue as we move ahead.  Ensuring the necessary inter-agency cooperation that NextGen requires is a very complicated managerial task and we need to get it right.  Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt understand this, and I believe Dr. Tonner’s extensive experience at NASA will be very helpful.”

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American’s ‘green’ test flight canceled; may be rescheduled

Last week, we reported AA’s plans to test fuel-saving measures using satellite navigation on a B767 flight from CDG to MIA.  According to the Dallas Morning News, that test was canceled due to mechanical problems with the plane.

On his “Airline Biz” blog, DMN reporter Eric Torbinson implies he has heard from the airline that the test will be attempted at a later date, but no source is explicitly cited.

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Utah lawmakers, NATCA resist ERAM test

From the Associated Press:

Utah’s two U.S. senators are urging the Federal Aviation Administration to hold off testing a new computer system at a Salt Lake City air traffic control center that guides planes across portions of eight states.

Republican Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch wrote FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on June 11, asking him to delay a test of the new system at the Salt Lake Air Route Traffic Control Center. [..] “Safety concerns demand that ERAM (the computer system) not be implemented until it meets and exceeds the standards of reliability and stability of the system it replaces,” the senators wrote.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with the union representing air traffic controllers to discuss the test. She said agency officials still have confidence the test can take place as planned.

The test is scheduled from midnight to 4 a.m. on June 18, said Doug Pincock, an air traffic controller [and NATCA rep — ed.] in Salt Lake City. During that period the main computer system that the control center has used for nearly two decades will be switched off and the new system, known as En route Automation Modernization, will be switched on, Pincock said.

Further information: NATCA’s press release; FAA ERAM fact sheet; Text of letter to Randy Babbitt from Sens. Bennett and Hatch.

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FAA approves use of Flint Hills UAS in broader, but still restricted airspace

From the Associated Press:

Federal Aviation Administration officials have given approval for flights of an unmanned aerial vehicle near a National Guard range in central Kansas.

The approval means the Flint Hills Solutions Aerosonde UAV will be allowed to fly over Crisis City, which is part of the Great Plains Joint Training Center located near the Kansas National Guard’s Smoky Hill Weapons Range.

Involved with developing the UAV and its uses are Kansas State University, Flint Hills Solutions and the Salina Airport Authority.

The FAA approval, which was previously limited to the weapons range, allows for more extensive training in search and rescue operations through the Kansas National Guard and related agencies.

The Aerosonde is a 6-foot long, 35-pound, fixed-wing UAV that can fly for up to 12 hours, according to the manufacturer. For more on the Kansas National Guard’s plans for UAS and disaster response, see this article in the Wichita Eagle (published last April).

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LAX gets runway status lights; system partially complete

From the Los Angeles Times:

Federal and local officials will unveil a new warning system today that is designed to stop runway incursions that for years have endangered planes taxiing to and from terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. [..]

[Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie] Lindsey said the Board of Airport Commissioners decided to pay for the warning system with airport revenue rather than wait for federal money — a move that allowed the signals to be installed almost three years earlier than they would have been.

Jon Russell, the western regional safety chairman for the Air Line Pilots Assn., said the new warning lights are a significant safety measure, but the devices need to be installed on all taxiways that intersect runways. He said lights were not put in some of the areas where close calls have occurred.

“This is a great starting point,” Russell said, “but the system is not complete.”

Given their budget constraints, FAA and LAX officials said they selected sites they thought had the greatest potential for collisions. If necessary, they said, lights can be added to other taxiways and runways in the future.

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What does AF447 crash mean for the future of oceanic communications and surveillance?

In the wake of the crash of the Air France A330 into the South Atlantic, a number of outlets have begun speculating on whether this could lead to a push for improved oceanic communications and surveillance. One summary comes from the Associated Press:

The plane’s disappearance has prompted calls for the U.S. and other countries to hasten the move to GPS-based networks that would pinpoint planes and enable air traffic controllers to monitor them as they cross the ocean outside radar-range.

“It does seem a little disconcerting for the public who have not been familiar with the lack of surveillance in oceans,” said Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Virginia. [..]

Voss believes that being able to better communicate with aircraft is more important from a safety point of view than surveillance. [..]

“This crash may put more pressure on international organizations to advance the use of satellite voice communications,” — technology that you would use when you hire a satellite phone to “go off to Antarctica or deepest darkest Africa,” said Voss.

The German news-weekly Spiegel had an in-depth article about issues related to in-flight data transmission:

If search teams fail to recover the flight recorder, which consists of two metal devices that record flight data and cockpit conversations, this question may never be answered. “It would be a real shame for aviation,” says Robert Francis, the former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that investigates aviation accidents in the United States. “If we want to avoid dramas like this in the future, we have to know what went wrong,” says the safety expert. For this reason, Francis wants to see all important flight data transmitted via satellite in the future, using ACARS technology. “This crash demonstrates how valuable this technology could be,” he says.

Significant upgrades to aircraft would not even be required, according to Francis. All that is needed, he says, is to reprogram the software in the communication system, turning it into a sort of online black box. Krishna Kavi, an engineer and professor at the University of North Texas in Denton, presented the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with a similar system 10 years ago. “The cost is low,” he says. For the 256 parameters recorded by a black box, Kavi came up with a volume of data requiring transmission of four to eight kilobits per second. “This is a fraction of what mobile wireless devices transmit today,” says Kavi. [..]

But transmission of flight data is expensive. It takes up satellite bandwidth. Former NTSB official Francis is familiar with these problems. But he argues that a constant flow of data during flight would not be absolutely necessary. “We would already gain a lot if the system would only transmit data the minute the aircraft entered an unusual situation,” he says. Experts with Germany’s Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation in Braunschweig and the European Aviation Safety Agency in Cologne consider it “technically feasible” to report flight data on every flight to a central office via an online system. But pilots are the ones raising objections. “It would be tantamount to the full-scale monitoring of pilots,” says Jörg Handwerg of Cockpit, a German pilots’ association.

Safety expert Francis knows his proposal affects the personal rights of pilots. For this reason, he says, data would have to be encoded to prevent unauthorized individuals from listening in on radio communications. [..]
On the other hand, he says, nothing highlights the need for improved radio transmission of data than last week’s desperate search for wreckage from the downed Air France jet. According to Francis, ACARS should always transmit an aircraft’s position data, thus enabling rescue teams to search more effectively in an emergency.

“This crash demonstrates, in a drastic way, that we must improve our monitoring systems,” he says. In a world in which satellites perform monitoring and navigation tasks, says Francis, it should not be possible for aircraft to simply disappear.

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American Airlines flying CDG-MIA demo under AIRE initiative

From the Miami Herald:

Thursday’s flight will use GPS signals virtually all the way, instead of conventional ground-based radio navigation beacons. A similar Paris-Miami flight by Air France is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the FAA — but the French airline could not be reached for comment.

Brian Will, an American Airlines captain, described the event as a gate-to-gate demonstration flight in which the airline and air traffic control in Europe and the United States will coordinate new technical capabilities and ”tailored arrival” procedures in which aircraft descend at reduced power from cruising altitude to approach without leveling off at intermediate altitudes — the traditional step-down method.

The air traffic controllers union is skeptical.

”The FAA has gone to great lengths to advertise NextGen as the panacea to all issues involving our enormous air traffic control system,” Jim Marinitti, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association Local MIA, and Mitch Herrick, the local’s vice president, said in a statement. “The event scheduled for this week with the American Airlines aircraft is simply a publicity stunt. The flight will be using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that we have been using for years.” [..]

American Airlines said the flight is part of AIRE, an initiative stemming from the Europe/U.S. Open Skies treaty. AIRE stands for Atlantic Interoperability Initiative to Reduce Emissions, a joint project involving the FAA, the European Commission and several global airlines to speed application of new technologies and procedures to reduce noise and carbon emissions.

Other sources: Associated Press wire, AA press release.

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Young people avoiding aviation careers, forum presenters say

Aviation International News has a wrap-up of the New Jersey State Aviation Forum that was held at Newark airport last month, focusing on gaps in aviation education:

“The whole aviation industry is balanced on the head of a pin,” said Mike Stoddard, president of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition. “The people who made aviation what it is today are dying, retiring, and there is no replacement pool. Unless we start generating some interest in educating young people for the jobs that are available, for the sheer joy of flying, I don’t foresee anything but a bleak future for general aviation.”

We believe that this topic will escalate in importance over the next 10 years. Small, high-tech manufacturers in the U.S. already have a serious workforce development crisis. Too few students are entering engineering programs, and too few students are preparing themselves for careers in precision manufacturing. It’s unlikely that aviation will be able to unilaterally avoid the demographic and educational pressures that are looming on the horizon.


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Runway incursion at CLT; ASDE-X alerts controllers

The NTSB has released an incident report about a runway incursion between a CRJ-200 and a Pilatus PC-12 that happened at Charlotte-Douglas airport last week:

At about 10:17 a.m. on May 29, a PSA Airlines CRJ-200 regional jet operated as US Airways Express flight 2390, was cleared for takeoff on runway 18L. After the regional jet was into its takeoff roll, a Pilatus PC-12, a single engine turboprop aircraft, was cleared to taxi into position and hold farther down the same runway in preparation for a departure roll that was to begin at the taxiway A intersection. After the ground-based collision warning system (ASDE-X) alerted controllers to the runway incursion, the takeoff clearance for the regional jet was cancelled.
The pilot of the PC-12, seeing the regional jet coming down the runway on a collision course, taxied the PC-12 to the side of the runway. The FAA reported that the regional jet stopped approximately 10 feet from the PC-12.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the link to the NTSB press release archive isn’t yet available — we will update once they post the item.

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Randy Babbitt confirmed as FAA Administrator

From Dow Jones Newswires:

The Senate late Thursday confirmed two of President Barack Obama’s key transportation nominees.

Randolph Babbitt, an aviation consultant and former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, will now take the helm of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Two of Babbitt’s most pressing tasks will be to resolve labor disputes involving air traffic controllers and to find funding for long-held plans to revamp the nation’s air-traffic management system, a project known as NextGen. [..]

The Senate also approved John Porcari, who will leave his current post as one of Maryland’s top transportation officials to be the Department of Transportation’s deputy secretary.

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H.R. 915 passes House vote

The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 915, which among many other things would reauthorize the FAA’s budget through FY 2012.  The final tally was 277 to 136 (to see how your Congressman or -woman voted, click here.)

The floor debate focused in large part on inspections of foreign repair stations. Here a summary from the well-informed (though partisan) Aeronautical Repair Station Association:

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN-8) exchanged barbs with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. John Mica (R-FL-7) over the potential impact of Sec. 303.

Rep. Mica, supported by House Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI-6) emphasized that Sec. 303 violates the current bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA) with the European Union. The EU has stated that if the language in Sec. 303 becomes law, the BASA will collapse, causing a severe impact for the over 1,200 repair stations in the United States that complete work for European customers. Armed with letters from impacted businesses and associations, Rep. Mica continued to stress that the section was a “job killer”.

While Rep. Mica reeled off the devastating job losses that could result from Sec. 303’s enactment, Rep. Oberstar replied that the EU was simply “crying wolf” and no retaliation will actually occur. In addition, Rep. Oberstar and House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL-12) continued their claim that the amendment was based on safety concerns.

So what is H.R. 915 all about? You can find Rep. Costello’s view here; another interesting summary comes from Aero-News Network.

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Babbitt, Porcari confirmed by Commerce Committee

From the Journal of Commerce:

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to send to the full Senate for confirmation the president’s nominees for deputy transportation secretary and head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The panel acted one day after a confirmation hearing for John D. Porcari to be deputy to Secretary Ray LaHood at the Department of Transportation, and J. Randolph Babbitt to be FAA administrator.

That means the two only await a final Senate vote to move into their jobs in top leadership posts for U.S. transportation policies.

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Senators put Randy Babbitt in the hot seat

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, FAA Administrator-designate Randy Babbitt got a taste of the challenges coming his way. By the looks of it, Babbitt has broad support and should be confirmed without any real trouble, but the Senators’ questions were telling in their own right. Some examples:

Sen. Frank Lautenberg on the NY/NJ airspace redesign: “Would you hold the implementation of the airspace redesign project until you see that the interested parties, who have value to contribute, will be included?”

Lautenberg on tower staffing: “If confirmed, can you assure us that the Newark tower will be staffed to the volume of performance that we require there?”

Sen. Johnny Isakson: “What are you going to do to expedite the next generation and the FAA, technology-wise?”

Sen. Byron Dorgan on standards among regional carriers: “Mr. Babbitt, how could they be enforced if you put a co-pilot on a plane flying into Buffalo, New York in the winter with icing who says on the cockpit recorder, ‘I’ve never flown in icing and am very nervous about this.’ That cannot possibly be a standard that is enforced by the FAA.”

Randy Babbitt’s prepared remarks are here, and the full Q&A transcript is here. You can also view the video webcast here.

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#Ouch: Twitter means real-time, public customer feedback for airlines

Want to know how the airline business will be affected by social networking technologies?  Here’s a sign of the times from South Africa:

GLOBAL television personality Richard Quest has slammed South African Airways on the popular social messaging website Twitter, describing it as “shambolic” and in a state of “chaos”.

The outspoken host of CNN Business Traveller and the channel’s Quest Means Business yesterday criticised the troubled airline on his Twitter page, which has more than 10 000 followers around the world. His flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg was delayed and he accused SAA of handling the situation badly. [..]

Updating his Twitter page on Saturday, Quest wrote: “South African cancelled CPT/JNB. Bedlam at Cape Town. In a line 60 deep! CHAOS!”Shortly afterwards, he added: “Am likely to miss my connex to London. SAA are shambolic at handling this one cancellation”.

In his next posting, Quest said: “trx to another flight. Back at gate. more chaos! most unimpressive”.

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Experts, lawmakers resist cancelation of eLoran upgrade

From NextGov:

Congress and the geospatial industry are voicing opposition to President Obama’s proposal to kill a decades-old navigational system that could serve as a backup to the popular and prevalent GPS.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, [questioned] Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano about the administration’s plan to cancel the enhanced Long Range Aid to Navigation system (eLoran) at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs [..]

A report completed in January by an independent assessment team chaired by Bradford Parkinson, considered the father of GPS, and not publicly released, concluded that eLoran was the only cost-effective back up to satellite-based GPS and it would deter threats to U.S. national and economic security by jamming signals.

The report, prepared for the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research firm, and obtained by Nextgov, said top officials from the Defense Department, DHS and the Office of Management and Budget concluded after briefings in 2006 and 2007 that eLoran was “the only alternative [to GPS] meeting the technical requirements at a reasonable cost.”

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LaHood to cancel NY/NJ slot auction

From the DOT press release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing to rescind plans for slot auctions at New York-area airports.  Under the proposal, the Department would halt plans announced last October to withdraw a number of slots from airlines operating at airports in the New York region and auction the slots to the highest bidder.

“We’re still serious about tackling aviation congestion in the New York region,” Secretary LaHood said in New York City in remarks to the Association for a Better New York.  “I’ll be talking with airline, airport and consumer stakeholders, as well as elected officials, over the summer about the best ways to move forward.”

The plans for the auctions for slots at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia Airports and Newark Liberty International Airport were announced by the Department on Oct. 10, 2008.  The auctions were proposed as part of a plan to reduce congestion and delays at the region’s airports, along with caps on the number of flights per hour at each of the airports. Due to litigation over the rule and a court-ordered stay, the auctions have not taken place.

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