Trump administration to move non-profit model to take over FAA ATC management
The Trump administration has given its full support to the creation of a “non-profit, independent corporation” separate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to manage the United States air traffic control (ATC).
It is proposed that the new entity will be operational by 2021 after a “multi-year” transfer.
In its Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative, as reported earlier this month in ATW News, the administration is now formally establishing a plan to remove US ATC from FAA oversight, replacing it with a non-profit, independent entity.
In describing his reasons for doing this, Trump was reported to have said that the present-day US ATC system was “ancient, broken, antiquated and horrible, [a] system that doesn’t work”.
He also announced that bidding for “one great company that can piece it all together” was underway.
US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao supported the move and testified before the US House of Representatives on June 8, saying that the FAA cannot “both increase the country’s air system capacity and maintain safety in its current configuration”.
“Our skies are becoming increasingly congested; flight delays and time wasted on the tarmac waiting for clearance are the new normal,” she was reported to have said by ATW News.
“Some domestic flights between the same two cities today actually take longer than they did decades ago because of congestion and indirect routing. What this means is that we do not have a system that can handle increasing capacity and still maintain safety.”
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As July’s edition of Uplink went to deadline, this proposed legislation to separate ATC management from the FAA had just cleared a key committee vote, but it was about to get even more controversial with a “flags of convenience” amendment added to the bill.
Reported again in ATW News, The House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the FAA reauthorisation legislation by a 32-25 vote, “clearing the way for the bill that would reauthorise FAA for six years and create an independent, non-profit entity to run US ATC to be voted on by the full House”. This is expected to happen before August.
In the 10-hour June 27 mark-up of the bill, the legislation was amended to include the language of the proposed “Flags of Convenience Don’t Fly Here Act”, which aims to make it more difficult for the US transportation secretary to grant foreign air carrier permits to European carriers such as Norwegian Air International (NAI).
The amendment directs the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure airlines applying for foreign carrier permits under the US-EU Open Skies agreement “do not undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles” contained in the agreement. DOT may impose specific labour conditions on the carrier being granted a permit, according to the amendment.
In a statement, the US Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) was happy with the inclusion of the “flags of convenience” amendment in the FAA reauthorisation bill.
“The measure defends US aviation workers against foreign carriers shopping the globe for cheap labour while upholding the letter and spirit of our Open Skies agreement with the European Union.”
Meanwhile, ATW News reported that the US Travel Association said lawmakers were losing focus on the goal of ATC reform by including a provision making “it easier to block pro-growth” and “pro-traveller disruption from low-cost airlines.”
“Currently, very few of these carriers serve the US, and this amendment limits the ability of any new competitors to establish direct international flights here. This amendment directly undermines our country’s Open Skies agreements, and risks millions of American jobs by hampering efforts to make our aviation market more competitive and give flyers more choices.”
Uplink will continue to watch and convey reports with interest.
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WestJet pilots agree to join ALPA
Pilots at Calgary’s WestJet have voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Sixty-two percent of pilots voted in favour of ALPA representation, according to a May 12 statement released by the union.
The Canadian low-cost carrier (LCC) employs more than 1,400 pilots, and 97 percent of those eligible to vote did so. Pilots now will develop a master executive council to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
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“Supersized” superjumbo revealed by Airbus at Paris Air Show
International media was enthralled by the recent unveiling of the upgraded version of the world's biggest passenger jet at the Paris Air Show.
The Airbus A380, nicknamed superjumbo, includes a new wingtip design aimed at “reducing fuel burn by up to 4 percent”, it was reported.
The new wing design adds to other modifications presented earlier this year including new stairways and a cabin rest area to fit in more seats, with Airbus dubbing the enhanced version the “A380plus”.
Reuters had previously reported the plans, which the company is hoping will assist in what seems to be sluggish sales of the double-decker jet.
The “A380plus” is described as having an increased maximum take-off weight of 578 tonnes, meaning it can either carry 80 more passengers or fly a further 300 nautical miles.
Airbus said that it would save further through less maintenance costs. Overall, the changes will lead to a 13 percent reduction in cost per seat compared with the current A380.
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ICAO releases RFI for UAS Traffic Management Systems
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has taken on the task of developing a common global framework for unmanned aircraft traffic systems.
The announcement was made at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) Xponential in May.
The Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) initiative is part of a programme assigned to ICAO by its 191 member states, many of which have proposed the creation.
ICAO said it was motivated to take on the development of UTM by the need to maintain safety for manned aircraft, the desire for harmonious domestic drone regulations, and to create an efficient environment for drone operations.
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Analysis: Fuel and labour costs are rising, but airlines are maintaining financial health
This year is proving to be a double-edged sword for the world’s airlines. On the one hand, air travel demand is more robust than expected as the global economy remains more stable than predicted. On the other, higher fuel prices and increasing labour costs are squeezing airline profit margins.
“The global economy is looking fairly positive at the moment,” International Air Transport Association (IATA) Chief Economist Brian Pearce said in early May at the Wings of Change conference in Miami.
“In the last six to nine months, we’ve seen a pretty strong and steady improvement in business confidence, and that’s always good for economic growth. Consumers have been getting confident after hitting a low patch about a year ago. That all adds up to a positive outlook. The industry overall is seeing [2017 passenger traffic] growth of seven percent. We had been expecting a slowdown…People are confident. They want to travel.”
The strong demand for air travel in 2017 reverses fears that airline capacity was starting to outstrip demand in 2016, Pearce noted.
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London City Airport to install remote ATC tower
London City Airport (LCY) will be the first in the United Kingdom to have its air traffic control (ATC) functions controlled remotely.
From 2019, control of aircraft using LCY will be handled by the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) provider from its centre in Swanwick, Hampshire, located 70 miles (113 kilometres) away. Controllers will use 360-degree high-definition cameras and sensors mounted on a newly constructed ATC tower at LCY.
A live feed with a panoramic view of the airfield will be sent via secure fibre connections to a new NATS control room at Swanwick.
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Drone debuts as firefighter in US
Spain-based start-up Drone Hopper has designed a heavy-duty firefighting drone that offers “safety, flexibility and efficiency over traditional fire suppression technology”, the company says.
Fuelled by a gasoline engine, the drone has a diameter of 63 inches (1.6 metres) and is 20 inches (0.5 metres) high. The system incorporates thermographic cameras and navigation systems that give firefighters real-time information on terrain, atmospheric conditions and other data.
The company says the volume of water that the Drone Hopper can carry (79 gallons) is about one-tenth of that which a hydroplane can carry, but the price of the drone is much less. It also allows rescue services to acquire a sufficient number of drones to match the productivity of a plane while ensuring a greater degree of safety and pinpoint accuracy.
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US District Court strikes down FAA recreational drone registry
In December 2015, Federal Aviation administration (FAA) introduced a small-Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) Registration Rule ahead of an expected Christmas surge in drone sales. Since then, more than 820,000 recreational and commercial owners have registered their drones. But Congress never incorporated the registration requirement into legislation, and the inevitable happened. On May 18, John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast and insurance lawyer, filed a lawsuit and beat the FAA and Department of Justice in a case challenging the legality of a December 2015 FAA rule requiring model aircraft to register like unmanned aircraft. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FAA’s registration rule, as it applies to model aircraft, “directly violates [a] clear statutory prohibition”.
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IATA proposes alternative solutions to carry-on electronics ban
Additional security and screening measures at airports, including the use of sniffer dogs, are being proposed to authorities in the United States and United Kingdom to ward off a wider implementation of laptop carry-on bans.
International Airline Transport Association Director General and Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said the industry did not doubt there was a threat, but the US and UK solution of banning personal electronic devices (PEDs) larger than smartphones from aircraft cabins was “not effective and not a good way to protect passengers and crew against the threat”.
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