But AOPA Tells 'Em, With A Smile, GA's Already Been There
Special to ANN: Drew Steketee Reports From Washington
"We're in deployment. We're making it happen," said FAA's
Vincent Capezzuta, director of Surveillance and Broadcast Services
He quantified fast-growing ADS-B coverage (120 operating
stations now and 323 by September mostly covering the East, Gulf
and Alaska.) Also impressive: ADS-B's small, simple, handy radio
stations trumping testy old radars atop remote mountaintops.
Others briefed their various projects, calling again for making
"the business case." An audience side-conversation observed that
some fuel savings were fairly small, per-flight, but big savings
were in "the multiples" over a large fleet, day-after-day. The
painful investment to achieve those multiples -- re-tooling a LOT
of airplanes and crews.
FAA Acting Airports Chief, Catherine Lang, illuminated more than
that occurs about NEXTGEN's potential and issues for airports. Bob
Pearce covered Congressional-darling JPDO's role coordinating
Federal players such as DOD, Homeland Security and National
intelligence interests. Others highlighted oceanic operations -- a
real opportunity to extend over-ocean ATC surveillance and allow
In-Trail Procedures (ITP) for fuel-saving, beyond-radar climb
clearances as close as 15 nm to other traffic.
Deputy Director, JPDO
NEXTGEN will be a new world for airlines.
Continental's program at Newark will win IMC approaches out of
the ILS conga line by curving traffic to EWR's under-utilized
cross-runway, just as they do now in VFR. Alaska and other carriers
are working for fuel- and noise-stingy IMC over-water "Elliott Bay"
constant descents at idle into the Sea-Tac pattern. (Significantly,
Alaska then starts getting substantial new-nav returns in the Lower
48, not just in the rugged North.)
GA was SO early in adopting GPS, even for IFR, that it all
sounded a little funny. Or perhaps not. Airlines face massive
equipage costs, aircraft downtime and re-training of pilots - all
while keeping their schedules and (trying to) hang on financially.
CEOs have demanded that "business case." (I still remember
resistance to autopilots down in Third Level commuter airlines.
Company presidents who wrote the check would joke, "What, then, is
the co-pilot I hired for?)
GA was indeed an early believer and AOPA Senior VP Melissa Rudinger
was there to make the point with grace and wise understatement.
Yes, she said, GPS is aboard by the tens of thousands; and "glass"
now floods our cockpits. But her story from a recent AOPA airplane
give-away said it all.
AOPA Senior VP - Government Affairs
She recounted that as a major cargo airline pilot got keys to
his new AOPA prize-plane, local TV asked, "What will it be like to
fly this little plane after all the technology in your
He responded wistfully, "This thing's got ten times the hi-tech
of what I fly for a living!"
Understanding laughter preceded sincere applause. Point gently
Aside from airlines' investment in tough times, Nancy Graham of
ICAO raised international harmonization issues that can't be left
to the last minute. But another, more domestic political question
occurs. Is the real threat a shift away from government's 20th
Century role and towards less public investment by imposing costs
more directly on direct users of new infrastructure?
The whole nation benefited from 20th Century advances as
aviation rose, literally, from the ashes of its early safety
record. But now, speaker after speaker took pains to recite
aviation's contributions to our economy and quality of life. With
more tools migrating to the individual cockpit, will someone again
claim it's time to deliver the bill directly to that direct user?
Increasingly tolled freeways and new "High Occupancy Lane" charges
portend it. Rockwell Collins' Clay Jones did say that that $40
billion might be hard to come by!
Technology breeds much change, some unexpected. NEXTGEN bears
watching, support - and MUCH more public education. But pilots,
engineers, cost accountants and frustrated air travelers alike
might revel in an integrated, 21st Century system that flows better
and smarter. Will FAA's revised clearance to this destination now
remain direct and de-conflicted?
Or... will we get further vectors, delays and