- A new approach for the Single European Sky
- Mexico’s air traffic control mess
- U.S. airline competition continues heating up
- Another vertiport developer—ahead of its time?
- Reforming the airport passenger facility charge
- “Privatizing” the East Hampton airport?
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
A New Approach for the Single European Sky
Airlines serving Europe complained bitterly about the inefficiency of Europe’s fragmented air traffic control (ATC) system, during the Airlines for Europe (A4E) summit in Brussels, on March 31. Under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, they pointed to large potential emission reductions if all flights within Europe could follow the shortest paths between origin and destination. But this idealized system is nearly as far from being realized as when the Single European Sky program began in 1999.
“Fixing the fractionated ATM system will future-proof European aviation,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary.
European Commission Transport Director General Henrik Hololei added, “It is a disgrace and unacceptable that the member states have not been able to agree on ambitious reforms and deliver a Single European Sky. It is blocked at the member states, and there is not enough willingness to move forward.”
To see how costly and inefficient the European air traffic control system is, consider the following statistics, extracted from the “2017 Comparison of Air Traffic Management-Related Operational Performance, U.S./Europe,” put together by Eurocontrol and the FAA Air Traffic Organization.
|U.S. (CONUS)||Eurocontrol Area||Difference|
|Area (sq. km)||10.4||11.5||+10%|
|Approach control facilities||26||16||-38%|
|Airports with ATC||517||406||-21%|
|Average daily flights||41,874||28,475||-32%|
|ATC staff, total||31,647||35,130||+11%|
Because each country insists on keeping all its air traffic control facilities, Europe has triple the number of en-route centers compared with the United States, serving one-third fewer daily flights, with nearly 50% more air traffic controllers. And this leads to less-efficient routes in addition to much higher costs. A recent study carried out by researchers at the Otto Beisheim School of Management at a German university that goes by its initials (WHU), found that direct flight routes between European cities could reduce airline emissions by as much as 40%. (Arne K. Strauss and Jan-Rasmus Kunnen, “Reducing Flight Detours to Cut Emissions,” Air Traffic Management, Issue 1, Spring 2022)
However, the status quo is maintained by the governments of each sovereign country, along with massive lobbying and strike threats from the numerous air traffic controller unions. A recent example, reported in the May 2022 issue of Aviation Intelligence Reporter, was the attempt of the air navigation service provider (ANSP) of Poland—PANSA—to implement a partially automated air traffic management system that would have enabled “less location-specific air traffic control.” This mild reform led to threats of a strike and agitation by controller unions, not limited to Poland. The government caved, and—sadly—European airlines sat on their hands.
But in the same issue of that newsletter, editor Andrew Charlton suggested that if Eurocontrol’s Network Manager could actually direct air traffic flows (as the FAA’s Command Center can), more efficient, lower-emission routes could result. One factor that hinders this is that the air traffic control charge per flight kilometer varies widely among European air navigation service providers. This leads to the well-known practice of airlines routing around airspace with high per-kilometer rates to save money, thereby taking longer and burning more fuel, leading to higher emissions.
But what if—in the name of carbon reduction—the European Commission were able to mandate a single en-route rate per kilometer regardless of which ANSP was controlling a portion of the flight path. That would eliminate routing around high-cost airspace, but it would also do something else. Since a high-cost ANSP would no longer be able to recover 100% of its bloated costs (from too many centers, too many controllers), for the first time it would have a significant economic incentive to take on its unions and other status-quo forces (e.g., members of parliament who resist consolidation of centers) to make serious cost-saving reforms.
This would be a real challenge to the sovereignty question that has stymied achieving the original Single European Sky vision. I don’t know which European Union body may have the authority to make such a change, but aviation stakeholders should pursue this proposal. The new aspect that could make a difference is the widely agreed need to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint in Europe.
Mexico’s Air Traffic Control Mess
A near-collision on May 7 between two Volaris A320s at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) has called attention to serious problems with the recent redesign of the country’s airspace.
For years Benito Juarez International Airport has been trying to handle more flights and passengers than it was designed for—and its location makes it difficult to expand the airport. The previous government had selected a farther-out site for a replacement airport, based on a Mitre Corporation study. It commissioned a state-of-the-art design from Norman Foster Partners and launched a major construction project, estimated at $13 billion. The new airport was about 40% completed when the new government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) took office in 2018. One of its first actions was to cancel that project, leaving bondholders without the planned airport revenue for debt service. The government’s new plan was to keep MEX in place but to supplement it with a new airport based on an existing military air base, to be named Felipe Angeles Airport, at a cost of $5.6 billion. Further away, there is another airport with some scheduled service—Toluca.
Going from basically one large hub for airline service to three passenger airports required redesigning the airspace. In principle, that should have been no big deal. Numerous large metro areas have multiple airports: Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to name just a few. But this task seemed beyond the ability of the ANSP of Mexico, SENEAM. After airlines last year began reporting ground proximity warning system (GPWS) incidents, our own FAA downgraded Mexican air traffic control from Category 1 to Category 2.
Shortly before the near-collision at Benito Juarez International Airport, both the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) released safety warnings about Mexican airspace, noting many GPWS alerts, unplanned holding patterns, and other problems. “It would appear that with the opening of this newly converted airport, ATC has apparently received little training and support as to how to operate this new configuration of the airspace,” IFALPA’s safety bulletin stated.
The reaction by the government in the wake of the near-collision at MEX was swift. The head of SENEAM was fired, and Deputy Transport Minister Rogelio Jimenez Pons announced that flights at MEX would be reduced by 25% over the next 12 months, with airlines apparently forced to shift routes from MEX to Felipe Angeles. He also noted that SENEAM is short at least 250 controllers. President AMLO called for SENEAM to “put the airspace in order.”
By the way, Felipe Andres, though nominally open, is still partly under construction. And construction of the promised airport train to Mexico City has barely started, and it won’t be ready to transport passengers until the second half of 2023. That will not make airlines and their passengers eager to shift flights to Felipe Andres from Benito Juarez International Airport.
This is a sad comedown for Mexican aviation, reflecting the politicization of airports and neglect of the air traffic control system. Ironically, Mexico was the second country in the world (after the United States) to have an independent, self-supporting ATC system. Our system was begun in 1929 as a nonprofit airline co-op called Aeronautical Radio, Inc. (ARINC). After that fledgling system was taken over by the federal government in 1936, ARINC stayed in business providing services to the growing airline industry. After World War II, it helped to set up two similar nonprofit user co-op ATC providers, RACSA in Cuba and RAMSA in Mexico. Both of those developed their countries’ initial ATC systems, and they continued in operation until they were nationalized, RACSA by the incoming Castro regime and RAMSA in 1978.
U.S. Airline Competition Continues Heating Up
Start-up ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) Avelo and Breeze announced additional new routes in recent weeks, offering cost-conscious travelers new non-stop alternatives to legacy airlines.
On April 28, Avelo began its second year by announcing that its third base (after Burbank and New Haven) will be in Orlando (MCO). Avelo’s initial routes from Orlando will serve Charleston, SC, (CHS), Baltimore/Washington (BWI), and Wilmington, NC (ILM). By the end of this year, its plans include 10 destinations to be served from Orlando. Avelo also plans to consolidate its flight attendant and pilot training in Orlando.
As noted previously in this newsletter, Avports is leading a $100 million capital improvement program at New Haven (HVN), lengthening its runway and adding a modern passenger terminal. Avports has secured a 43-year lease for its public-private partnership to finance and build the improvements and operate the airport. As of this summer, Avelo will serve 14 destinations from New Haven.
Breeze Airways has also announced service expansions in recent weeks. Thanks to the range of its incoming Airbus A220-300s, it will begin transatlantic service from Westchester County Airport (HPN), just north of New York City. In September, Breeze will offer daily nonstop flights to Los Angeles (LAX) and Las Vegas (LAS) from HPN. Other destinations to be served from HPN are Charleston (CHS), Norfolk (ORF), and Jacksonville (JAX). Breeze also announced Orlando (MCO) as its thirtieth airport. And in mid-May, Breeze announced that it will serve Provo, UT, (PVU) starting in August, with five routes from there planned to be in operation by November. Destinations from Provo will include San Francisco (SFO), San Bernardino (SBD), Las Vegas (LAS), and HPN (in this case one-stop service).
Both Avelo and Breeze are following the classic ultra-low-cost carrier model of providing direct, non-stop service from under-served, smaller airports (HVN, HPN, PVU) to leisure and (to some extent) business destinations such as BWI, LAS, LAX, MCO, and SFO. This is the business model pioneered with great success by Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit.
These latest developments bring us to the ongoing battle between JetBlue and Frontier to merge with Spirit. After Spirit rejected JetBlue’s unsolicited takeover proposal, JetBlue approached Spirit’s shareholders with a hostile all-cash $3.6 billion takeover offer. Spirit’s management has urged shareholders to reject that offer, arguing that the combination of JetBlue and Spirit would likely face extensive, costly antitrust challenges from the federal government. While that does seem to be likely, there’s a better reason to reject the offer.
Merging Spirit into JetBlue would convert the former Spirit from a ULCC to just a low-cost carrier, reducing the amount of ULCC competition and markedly changing the corporate culture of the Spirit component. By contrast, the original Frontier/Spirit merger would create an ultra-low-cost carrier powerhouse, offering robust competition with ULCCs Allegiant, Avelo, and Breeze. That expanded ULCC segment of the airline industry would be a more powerful competitive force keeping airfares affordable for air travelers across the board.
Another Vertiport Developer: Ahead of Its Time?
Aviation Week devoted a whole page to the debut of a prototype vertiport in Coventry, England, earlier this month. (Tony Osborne, “eVTOL Vertiport Template Gains International Traction,” Aviation Week, May 2-15, 2022) Called Air One, the prototype was developed by startup company Urban-Air Port Ltd. (UAP), founded by entrepreneur Ricky Sandhu. It consists of a modular tent covering 18,800 square feet, with a movable circular 56-foot diameter platform on which eVTOLs would land and take off. This Final Approach and Takeoff (FATO) platform is capable of supporting 15 metric tons. Once the loaded eVTOL, at ground level, is ready to depart, the FATO would be raised above the tent high enough to clear nearby obstacles prior to the aircraft’s lift-off. When an approaching eVTOL nears the facility, it would land on the elevated platform, which would then be lowered to the floor of the tent.
UAP envisions Air One facilities located on the ground at key locations (e.g., adjacent to Coventry’s railroad station), on rooftops, and at airports. The elevating FATO has been developed by Supernal, another startup, in this case, funded by Hyundai which is reportedly working on an eVTOL of its own. The rationale is to reduce sideline noise (though no comparative noise impacts have been reported) and for the aircraft to clear adjacent obstacles, such as fences. This implies that the eVTOLs will not be taking off or landing vertically but will need to follow some kind of glide path to the landing pad. That is realistic, since true vertical takeoffs require more power than angled takeoffs, especially if the eVTOL has wings, as some do. You don’t want to use up too much battery power on vertical takeoffs and landings if you can avoid them.
UAP seems to be envisioning a large near-term market for advanced air mobility (AAM), the umbrella term encompassing both urban air mobility (UAM) and regional air mobility (RAM). My assessment at this point is that a business case for UAM (i.e. short-haul air taxis within an urban area) is far less probable than RAM—serving cities up to several hundred miles apart, as Lilium and one or two eVTOL developers envision. Locating a vertiport adjacent to a rail station is consistent with UAM (taking a flying taxi to the station for a rail journey). But it makes no sense if the market is largely or entirely for RAM, which would compete with passenger rail.
Some concerns about UAM were aired in a thoughtful article by economics/technology columnist Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal. Mims interviewed several transportation consultants about difficulties in finding and getting local government approval for vertiport sites, including protecting vertiport glide paths from future adjacent tall buildings, interaction with FAA airspace constraints, etc. Former FAA official Mike Whittaker, now with Supernal, fears that cities may require vertiports to be outside of city centers due to land-use constraints in downtowns. Not mentioned in the article is the likelihood that FAA certification and oversight of vertiports will be required, just as it is for airports serving passengers.
My concern about premature investment in vertiports stems from an assessment I share with many others in aviation: over-optimistic expectations for FAA certification of the eVTOLs themselves, certification of their manufacturing, and air operator certification for the companies offering UAM or RAM services to paying customers—and here I’m considering only piloted eVTOLs; autonomous eVTOLs is another whole story. Aviation Daily reported on May 16 that there is currently a divergence between the approach to eVTOL certification being pursued by aviation safety regulator EASA in Europe and FAA’s current plans. Unless those approaches are harmonized, an eVTOL would have to be certified separately in Europe and the United States in order to be sold and operated in both jurisdictions. That would add considerable time and cost, further delaying the debut of actual UAM or RAM service.
Reforming Airport Passenger Facility Charges
By Stephen Van Beek, Head of North American Aviation for Steer
Summer airline scheduling data show that many U.S. airports will be soon reaching or exceeding 2019 passenger levels. Accordingly, airport boards and executive teams are once again looking at their facility plans with an eye towards upgraded infrastructure, which can provide services to their airline partners, to their passengers, and to growing business lines including cargo and general aviation, which have boomed during the pandemic.
Looking across transportation, the passenger facility charge (PFC) is one of, if not the most, elegant user charges to fund infrastructure. Authorized by the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (1990), the PFC was created recognizing two realities. First, federal capital funds, provided under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), were insufficient to fund infrastructure needs, especially at the largest commercial service airports. Second, airports needed a reliable, independent source of revenue. Policymakers wisely statutorily exempted them from the old-style use and lease agreements under which the largest airlines could block capital improvements at airports where additional capacity could benefit new entrants or smaller airlines seeking to increase service. Passenger facility charges are a vital tool for competition in the airline industry.
Today, there are two PFC rate levels, $3.00 and $4.50, assessed on most passenger itineraries up to two flight segments per trip. Airports net $2.89 and $4.39 from each segment, with 11 cents going to the airlines for their handling of the PFC (on their tickets). Passenger facility charges may only be used for FAA-authorized projects, including airside, terminal, and landside passenger-related infrastructure. As federally-authorized locally generated revenue, PFCs are the purest of user fees—assessed on passenger tickets only for infrastructure that airport passengers use.
Since they were first collected in 1992, over $62 billion of PFC revenue has been invested in airport infrastructure. Airports can also leverage PFCs to back new revenue bonds or pay interest on existing bonds. Their use has minimized direct federal capital spending, put downward pressure on airline charges for runways and gates, and under a creative formula has reduced capital grants for larger airports and shifted billions of dollars to smaller airports where fixed costs are high and passenger levels are often low, but where connectivity to the national air system remains critical.
PFCs’ strength have been their simplicity, but in a changing airport development environment, that is becoming its weakness. Congress has not acted to increase the PFC rate levels for over 20 years, reducing the inflation-adjusted value by half, and contributing to a tremendous backlog of capital needs for the airport industry. Airports Council International North America identifies over “$115 billion in planned and much-needed infrastructure projects.” While airport representatives have aggressively lobbied policymakers to increase and “modernize” the PFC, their efforts have been beaten back in the committee rooms and floors of Congress by vociferous airline lobbying, often with the false characterization of PFCs as a tax.
Even though passenger facility charges are a user fee, FAA regulatory oversight makes the PFC application process unnecessarily complex, delaying critical investments. To get approval for a PFC application, for example, airports must detail use of the PFC in terminals often down to the square foot. This is required so that no PFC revenue is spent on ineligible uses such as facilities supporting concessions (even though all airport net revenues are required by law to be reinvested in the airport).
It is fair to ask: What is different today? Why would policymakers and industry representatives agree to increase the PFC?
The current FAA authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2023, and the industry is already preparing for a challenging effort. Today, after years of being in surplus, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) has an inadequate balance to meet FAA budgetary needs (due to the drop in traffic and the suspension of taxes and fees during the height of the pandemic), which includes the capital and operating elements of air traffic control, airport infrastructure grants (AIP), research, and a slew of other needs.
To return the AATF to financial sustainability will require a review of current taxes and fees and forecasting how their collection will fund the $18.6 billion annual FAA budget. In this environment, the PFC as an airport “self-help revenue source” can help reduce federal capital grants to airports and the ticket taxes necessary to fund those grants. Several years ago, while I was sitting on the FAA Management Advisory Council and we were recommending significant reform in the delivery of air traffic control, Robert Crandall, the former CEO of American Airlines, noted “[d]oing a deal to swap higher PFCs for AIP—and building in provisions to give airlines some protection from airport grandiosity—would be a good deal for airports, airlines, passengers, and Mr. and Mrs. America who do not want to travel through run-down, out-of-date airport facilities.”
Recently, some smaller commercial service airports have stated their concerns that a PFC increase could hurt their air service as often their passengers must connect through an airline hub airport to their destination. Thus, any increase could be multiplied by four and added to the ticket price, adding already to the sometimes-high ticket prices discouraging service to those communities. To address that concern, we need to go no further than our Canadian neighbors for a solution.
In Canada, rate-setting for their PFC equivalents, called the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF), are set by the airports. At Toronto, recognizing their value as a hub serving small communities, they charge C$6 for connecting traffic or one-fifth of the C$30 charge for originating traffic.
For the upcoming FAA reauthorization, several options for policymakers are possible. Here are four:
- Deregulate the PFC: allow the airport to set the rate level by type of traffic
(e.g., international, domestic, connecting), as in Canada;
- Raise the PFC ceiling to account for inflation and index it: policymakers could raise the ceilings and build in an annual adjustment – e.g., initially $6.00 and $8.00 for the two PFC rate levels; or
- Adjust the PFC ceiling (as with 2 above) but retain the current levels for connecting traffic—this would recognize that connecting traffic does require infrastructure, but it would help mitigate the effect on small communities and their air service.
- Stipulate that 75% of airport terminals are PFC eligible, thereby greatly simplifying the application process. If airports would like a higher proportion to be eligible, they would have the option to submit more detailed analyses.
As we approach an era of greater concern about government spending and unmet airport infrastructure needs, passenger facility charges are a proven and effective tool that suit the time. Aviation industry representatives should use this period leading up to FAA reauthorization to review the options and come up with a consensus-based solution.
“Privatizing” the East Hampton Airport?
The aviation world has been buzzing for several months about a plan by the wealthy town of East Hampton (Long Island) to “privatize” its airport and re-open it with severe restrictions on the type and frequency of private planes and helicopters that use it.
The town’s plan is a response to airport neighbors’ concerns about noise from helicopters and business jets. It would limit any plane or helicopter to only one landing/takeoff per day. That would not likely affect those who own their own business jets, flying to their weekend homes in the Hamptons. But it would greatly affect helicopter and fractional-jet operators who rely on multiple daily round trips to East Hampton on many days. So the battle is being written about as a clash between the super-rich against the merely rich who live in East Hampton full time.
Opponents of the plan have filed several lawsuits arguing that the “privatization” is illegal on various grounds. The town’s plan to shut down the airport on May 17 and reopen it as a private facility the next morning was halted by a Suffolk County judge’s temporary restraining order in response to several of the lawsuits, including one from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
I am not a lawyer, and I have not read the briefs, but here is something I learned in the 1990s when then-mayor Richard Riordan attempted to privatize Los Angeles International Airport (prior to the subsequently-enacted Airport Privatization Pilot Program). Federal aviation law provides that, except for an airport approved by FAA under the successor privatization program, an airport owned by a local or state government cannot be sold if it has received and used any federal airport grants in the previous 20 years. If East Hampton’s airport has received such grants during the past 20 years, what it is trying to do would be illegal.
Worst 10 U.S. Airports According to Frommer’s
Travel guide publisher Frommer’s recently released its latest assessment of the 10 worst U.S. airports. Here is a brief summary of Frommer’s rankings and reasoning:
- #10 Washington Dulles (IAD)—due to inconvenient location, confusing layout
- #9 Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, WV—due to allegedly scary location
- #8 Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)—due to flight delays and cancellations, long lines due to understaffing
- #7 Denver International (DEN)—due to bumpy takeoffs and landings, long security lines, parking
- #6 Cleveland Hopkins (CLE)—due to outdated facilities, limited accessibilities
- #5 Philadelphia International (PHL)—due to outdated terminals, traffic
- #4 O’Hare International (ORD)—due to overcrowding, delays, and cancellations
- #3 Los Angeles International (LAX)—due to bad customer experience, traffic, confusing layout
- #2 LaGuardia (LGA)—delays and cancellations, poor ground transportation
- #1 Newark-Liberty International (EWR)—due to delays and cancellations, poor amenities, and an inconvenient location.
DOT Inspector General Will Audit FAA UAM Certification
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is the term for urban-area service intended to be provided by new-technology aircraft: small electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOLs). The Office of Inspector General has begun an audit of how the Federal Aviation Administration is planning for the certification of these aircraft. The March 7 memorandum about the study notes that FAA is taking a different approach to this subject than the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA), which has developed a special-condition approach to type certification. FAA plans to fit eVTOLs into existing regulations. Those with wings will be certified under Part 23 general aviation provisions, with special conditions, while volocopters will be certified under Part 21.17b for special-class aircraft.
RFP for San Jose Airport Connector P3
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for its airport connector public-private partnership (P3) project. The project would connect the airport with the downtown Diridon Station rail transit hub, a distance of three miles. The aim is to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the link under a long-term P3 agreement. The estimated cost of the system is $500 million.
Barbados Qualifies 13 Companies for Airport P3 Project
The Barbados government seeks to upgrade its Grantley Adams International Airport. The 13 companies that will be invited to bid on the RFP for a 30-year P3 concession include Ferrovial Airports, Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte, Schipol Netherlands, and Vinci Airports. The government’s aim is to have the winner selected by year-end and the long-term concession negotiated and signed in the first half of 2023.
Russia Is Jamming Airline GPS in Three Regions
Bloomberg’s Tara Patel reported the Russian military has been jamming commercial aviation GPS receivers since the start of its Ukraine invasion. Pilots have reported GPS disruption near the Black Sea, Kaliningrad, and eastern Finland. The head of satellite navigation at French aviation regulator DGAC suggested that the jamming is collateral damage rather than intended interference with commercial aviation. But this kind of interference further highlights the need for alternatives to GPS, which aviation (and nearly all other GPS users) still do not have.
Jamaica’s Privatized Airports to Expand Capacity
The Jamaican government has approved $106 million to be spent this year and next to assist the P3 concession companies MBJ Airports Ltd. (Montego Bay) and PAC Kingston Airports Ltd. (Kingston). MJB will spend $150 million of its own money on the continued expansion of the departure terminal and a 3MW solar power project; the government money will cover phase 3 of the Montego Bay runway extension project. PAC Kingston will also install a solar power plant (5MW), and the government money will be used for runway improvements.
Brazil Seeks Studies for Rio de Janeiro Airport P3s
The government’s Estruturadora Brasilia de Projetos (EBP) is seeking qualified consulting firms to develop P3 concession models for the two passenger airports serving Rio: the major hub Galeao International and the smaller Santos Dumont Airport. Selected firms will have 90 days to produce and submit their reports, including an economic evaluation, market assessment, and engineering and environmental studies. EBP has $4.5 million available for the studies.
Boom Supersonic Signs Carbon Capture Contract
Boom Supersonic, whose XB-1flying prototype will soon be making its initial test flights in California, earlier this month signed a 10-year agreement with Climeworks for CO2 removal via its carbon capture facilities. Boom plans to use 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF); which reduces but does not eliminates CO2 emissions. Climeworks has several carbon capture facilities in operation. Boom aims to begin production of its Overture supersonic airliner in 2024, with the prototype rollout set for 2025, flight tests in 2026, and certification by the end of 2029.
White House Proposes Local Control Over Drone Flights
On April 25, the Biden administration released an eight-point plan, calling for Congress to allow state and local governments to regulate some aspects of drone operations near “critical buildings,” along with new authority for those governments to detect and track drones, as well as allowing law enforcement and infrastructure operators to use federal detection and tracking technologies. It would be a six-year pilot program under which only a limited number of state and local entities would be authorized at any one time.
CLEAR Adds San Diego as its 43rd Airport
CLEAR’s expedited security lanes began operating in Terminal 2 of San Diego International Airport on April 26. The CLEAR lanes enable subscribers to establish their biometric identity and then bypass the long lines at security checkpoints. San Diego is CLEAR’s 43rd U.S. airport and the 8th in California.
Stewart Airport Loses Norse Atlantic Airlines
Before it even begins trans-Atlantic service, startup low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic has deleted New York’s Stewart Airport (SWF) from its schedule. Plans still include initial services from Oslo (Norway) to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) and to Ontario (ONT), which is east of Los Angeles. The reason for dropping SWF is its lack of air cargo facilities. Cargo is an important part of the airline’s revenue plans. Instead of SWF, Norse will begin its New York service at Kennedy International (JFK).
New Berlin Airport Loses Over Half Billion Dollars
The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) booked a loss of $602 million in its first full year of operation, Tribune News Service reported on May 3, 2022. To cover its losses, BER relies on federal and state funding to supplement its self-generated revenue from airlines and passengers. It is also known for long lines at check-in counters and security lanes, staff shortages, and miscellaneous problems such as broken walkways.
Companies Partner on Lighter Hydrogen Fuel Tanks
One of the problems with using hydrogen for aircraft propulsion is the weight of onboard hydrogen fuel tanks (which need to be much stronger than gasoline and jet fuel tanks). Gloyer Taylor Laboratories (GTL) has developed a lighter-weight tank that startup company HyPoint sees as a better match for its hydrogen fuel cells for aviation applications. Current tank designs weigh far more than the fuel they carry, whereas a new GTL tank weighs far less. Hypoint suggests that an aircraft using those tanks could achieve as much as four times the range of a conventional aircraft using aviation fuel.
To Address Aviation Staff Shortages, Recruit More Women
Recruit more women is the message from the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, established by Congress in the 2018 FAA reauthorization law. Its 2021 report, “Breaking Barriers for Women in Aviation: Flight Plan for the Future,” urges leaders in aviation to work for culture change that will encourage more women to pursue careers in aviation and offers numerous suggestions to that end.
Why GPS Should Embrace Privatization to Avoid Obsolescence
In a recent Forbes column, Charles Beames introduces a startup company called Hawkeye360, founded by Chris DeMay, formerly a program director at both the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. His company is planning a small-sat network in low earth orbit to provide position/navigation/timing (PNT) signals of far greater strength than today’s GPS—and at a far lower cost. Beames briefly profiles several other researchers/entrepreneurs with other PNT proposals. They take heart from the Space Force’s Hybrid Space Architecture concept—using both government and private small-sat elements, amounting to a far more robust PNT capability.
[T]he CEO of Delta, Ed Bastian, is now deep in historical revision territory, claiming that the bailout that he and the other U.S. airlines begged for, and secured by threatening mass lay-offs of staff, was not a bailout at all. It was nothing more or less than the airlines deserved. The airlines were merely helping the American economy out. And what a good job they did for the U.S. economy. In February 2020 Delta had about 91,500 employees. Once the not-bailout funds had worked their magic, by February 2021 it had 62,500. Instead of retaining staff, Delta and the other airlines used the money to fund early retirement and retrenchment programs. The result, inevitably, was a serious loss of corporate memory. New graduates are now doing jobs that once needed experience and background. . . . Rotation of staff is not of itself a bad thing, but remember, we are now screaming about staff shortages.”
—Andrew Charlton, “Bailouts, Buy-Backs, and Other Forms of Aid: For Whom?” Aviation Intelligence Reporter, May 2022
“I do worry that we are missing the opportunity to deliver the EU Single European Sky (SES)—because vested interests are still preventing it from going forward. . . . We also need to make sure that the system as a whole does not include perverse incentives for airlines to do things that make economic, but not environmental, sense—such as fuel tankering and flying longer routes in order to avoid expensive states.”
—Eamonn Brennan, Director General, Eurocontrol, in Philip Butterworth-Hayes, “A Different Kind of Future,” Air Traffic Management, Issue 1, Spring 2022