At the Aero Club, noting a century of government, industry working together
Founded in 1909, the Aero Club of Washington, DC, has had a consistent mission for more than a century: the advancement of aviation. So, when I addressed the club yesterday—with members from airlines, airports, manufacturers, labor, and government--we had that interest in common. In fact, the federal commitment to the aviation industry is considerably stronger today than it was when aviation was in its infancy and the Aero Club first opened its doors.
And the reasons for that are clear: civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to the American economy. But the industry's role as an economic engine doesn't end there. Air travel is critical to business, to the expedited delivery we take for granted, and to tourism. Because of that, our use of airports and airplanes will grow in the coming years.
Unfortunately, we cannot magically expand our skies, and we can't expand our airports and runways fast enough to keep pace. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, congestion and delays at airports will cost the economy $63 billion per year by 2040. How can we accommodate the anticipated increase in aviation demand?
We can manage our airspace more efficiently with the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation Air Transportation System --NextGen.
NextGen will upgrade our World War II era approach to air traffic control and bring airplanes and airports into the 21st century. Satellite navigation will allow more planes in the sky. Satellite landing procedures will let pilots arrive at airports more predictably and more efficiently. And, once on the ground, satellite monitoring of airplanes means getting you to the gate faster.
The industry is already starting to see the benefits. For example, at Memphis International Airport, we were able to revise “wake turbulence separation standards.” That means aircraft were able to safely land and depart in slightly faster succession than before. When you multiply that "slightly faster" by hundreds or thousands of flights, the gains become significant. Because less time waiting on the runway means less fuel burned, one of the carriers at Memphis, FedEx, is now saving $1.8 million on fuel every month.
At other airports, like Louisville, we’ve made the same sorts of improvements, helping other carriers--like UPS--save fuel and money, too.
NextGen is also good for passengers. Over the course of one year, passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were able to save 11,000 hours of waiting on the runway. That’s roughly the time between today and Memorial Day…in 2015.
Through just 2020, the FAA expects $38 billion in estimated benefits from delay reduction, fuel savings and fewer emissions. And, while we’re saving time and cutting costs, we’re not cutting safety corners. The aviation community has driven down the rate of commercial airline accidents to their lowest levels in recent memory. And that’s a bar we want to raise even higher.
Our focus now is on identifying and mitigating safety risk before an accident has a chance to occur. That’s why we’re using the wealth of safety data now available--including data voluntarily shared by the aviation industry--to analyze trends and precursors to accidents. We’re getting safety information from many sources including confidential reports by air traffic controllers, automated air traffic operations data, and industry reporting. Airline pilots support this effort when they fill out confidential Aviation Safety Action Program reports, and the airlines support it through the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing system, which provides us access to 185 data sources.
By sharing information in an open and transparent way to better connect the dots and identify safety problems, we’re all helping create a smarter and safer system.
In aviation, as with other industries, the collaboration between business and government has let us break barriers, improving efficiency and safety. As we work with airlines and manufacturers to further implement NextGen, that's a collaboration we will continue to sustain.