Date: 09 Apr 2001 15:37:01 From: "AirEcGrp" <email@example.com> Organization: Posted via Supernews, http://www.supernews.com Followups: 1
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In the last few years we have been witnessing a growing air traffic delay problem in the US. There is a great deal of debate regarding the solutions to these problems and a great deal of finger pointing. While the airlines point the finger at ATC and the weather, a recent editorial points the finger back at the airlines themselves. I thought the peice offered some pretty valid suggestions, what do you all think? Ten Things Airlines Should Do About Airspace Capacity Problem The long simmering airspace capacity problem is coming to a boil in the U.S., after years of warnings. Recently, the Air Transport Association of America listed a "Top Ten List" of things the airlines want the FAA to do to help turn things around. Wingman thinks the airlines, themselves, could do more to help. Here's Wingman's list of ten things the airlines should do as quickly as possible to ensure the continuing viability of their industry: 1.. Take back the responsibility for the basic purpose for their business: transporting passengers safely, efficiently and reliably by air. This includes not taking for granted what happens between gate push-back and gate arrival - and it goes beyond collaborative decision making. While airline safety is still exceptional, airline flight efficiency is declining and its flight schedule reliability is rapidly deteriorating. Hoping someone else (read FAA) will fix it, is wishful dreaming. 2.. Install a high-level manager to oversee airspace improvement within each airline. This person - who needs to be an innovative manager with experience in airspace operations - might come from the airline's pilot ranks, but that is not absolutely necessary. Such a person could come from an airlines' dispatch and operational planning function, or its engineering group. Whatever the person's background, it is important that the person be intimately knowledgeable about how the airspace system works. What is even more important, is that each airline clearly send a message, internally and to outsiders, that it intends to take the problem of airspace improvement seriously. Therefore, this manager needs to report to, at least, the airline 's highest ranking operational executive. 3.. Show up at industry airspace operational meetings. These certainly include RTCA's Free Flight effort and airspace redefinition. For too long, airlines have been absent from important industry deliberations on the concepts and procedures for managing tomorrow's airspace. (There have been a few notable exceptions to this, such as American's Robert Baker chairing the Free Flight Steering Committee.) This has been unfortunate, because the airlines lack of interest has retarded the process of introducing the new technology and techniques that could have helped prevent the present problem - first, because it creates doubts about airline buy-in, and second, because it restricts airline input on how things actually work in the real world. 4.. Participate in industry standards activities. There is little debate about the need for standards in aviation. Global flight would be nearly impossible without the worldwide operational requirements of ICAO, the minimum operational and performance standards of RTCA and Eurocae, along with the form, fit and function specifications of AEEC, which make avionics both practical and affordable. Yet, in recent years airlines seem to take these necessary functions for granted. Unfortunately, the airlines' lack of interest has slowed the decision-making of these groups and may have inhibited the quality of their work as well. 5.. Take more initiative in conducting trials, demonstrations and other activities to develop, evaluate and prove the value of new procedures and technologies. Airlines have access to the expertise, facilities and equipment necessary to do some of the required proof-of-concept work and evaluations required to develop both the equipment and procedures needed for real, worthwhile modernization. The Ohio Valley operational surveillance evaluations over the last two years have been one example of this. U.S. airlines are currently participating in new datalink communications work, as well. But these aren't enough to affect the necessary changes which must be implemented much faster. Compared to the losses (both direct and intangible) airlines suffer from airspace-related disruptions and poor service, these contributions to help understand and validate improvements are minor. 6.. Don't be stymied by faulty competitive concerns or the not-invented-here syndrome. Each airline cannot and should not invent an improved airspace system by itself. Nor should new flight procedures be proprietary if they have synergistic effects by mass adoption. On the other hand, there are self-help and competitive opportunities which innovative airlines can successfully exploit to gain competitive advantages. These might be especially possible at hub-dominated airports. 7.. Reconstitute the divisions in flight operations and engineering that keep track of and contribute to what's going on in the airspace. Airlines have too long neglected their "sky factory." This assertion may seem strange, but very few airline people really know much about it - even line pilots. (This is not meant to disparage their professionalism, but day-to-day flying is not the same as becoming really expert about airspace technology, management and innovation. Still, the airline people who know the most about the sky factory are pilots and dispatchers, but for a number of reasons - some cost-related - they're often not consulted. Qualified pilots, engineers and operational control managers within airlines need to be identified, nurtured and supported. And the job is to big, important and complex to handed off as subsidiary duty for a training pilot or check airman. A big problem for many airlines, however, is that pilots and dispatchers are union members and therefore excluded from management roles for contractual and cultural reasons. 8.. Collect and share operational data with more detail, using flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) recorders and other data gathering and analytical devices. We hear more and more about the need of data to understand what is happening in our airspace and to validate steps to improve it. Some of it is relatively easy and inexpensive to get. Today's airplanes have a myriad of sensors that can collect that data, and there are retrieval systems and data reduction programs which can economically analyze the resulting information. These data need to be collected, shared and analyzed as quickly as possible for the benefit of all. 9.. Become more realistic about payback requirements. For too long, airlines have cowed avionics suppliers with unreasonable investment payback hurdles. It may be understandable, that managers need simple formulas to sift through an overwhelming number of capital budget requests. But investments in the sky factory cannot be treated the same way as typical requests for new equipment. Investments in airspace infrastructure needs the same long-term view as purchases of new airplanes. 10.. Be open to new ideas. The airlines' we're-not-interested response to the idea of ATC privatization, as publicized by the Air Transport Association, was disappointing. There may seem to be good reasons for this: fear of labor's reaction, fear of losing some relative near-term cost advantage, a vain hope that former President Clinton's new ATC management structure will somehow change things, or even fear of the unknown. But airlines in particular have a vested interest in solving "sky factory" problems. Their unwillingness to question the ATC status quo doesn't inspire confidence that they have enough awareness of their perilous future. 03-25-2001. This editorial appeared in Flt Tech Online in the editorial Wingman section.