Michael Boyd, president of Boyd Group International based in Evergreen, CO is well known for his brash analytical approach to airline and airport issues. He was one of the first to foresee the onslaught of regional jets into the U.S. market, and one of the first to predict their retrenching in a volatile oil market. He is often critical of the Federal Aviation Administration, notably its pursuit of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program. AIRPORT BUSINESS recently discussed an array of issues with Boyd, at a time when the U.S. Congress was passing its economic stimulus package.
Boyd Group International offers consulting services to airports, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and financial institutions. Boyd’s personal background includes positions with American Airlines, Braniff International, Bar Harbor Airlines, and start-up American International Airways.
Following are edited excerpts of our recent interview ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: It would seem that your company’s services are in demand these days, particularly in helping airports with air service development.
Boyd: It’s worked out that way. It’s amazing where [airline] cuts are coming and cuts are not coming.
Knock on wood, but this recession thing is doing good for us. We are just buried and that’s good, and we want to stay that way.
AB: Much of the U.S. approach to aviation centers around system planning. Yet, one has to ask, how do you plan a system when we have economic chaos and volatility in the oil market?
Boyd: If we’re talking about infrastructure planning, there’s nothing on the horizon. Everybody is worshipping NextGen; when you look at it, NextGen is OldGen. It’s not going to fix the problem; it’s the wrong direction to go. It’s just computerizing old technology.
So, we have that to deal with, and we have a new Secretary of Transportation who doesn’t know anything about transportation, so we’ll have more of the same. From that perspective, we don’t have any long-term plan.
Then you have the issue of airports. I think what organizations like ACI and AAAE need to do is a major mailing campaign to every airline executive — just a postcard that says, ‘Reminder: Airports cost money.’ And that means we’re going to have spend some money keeping up the infrastructure we have now, which is not being done.
AB: What are your thoughts on the Congressional stimulus package?
Boyd: Now, I looked at the stimulus package as much as anyone else and the problem you’ve got is that none of it is going to encourage air travel. None of it is really going to go to improving our airport and airway infrastructure like we need to. And none of it is going to fix the lack of direction we have. So, bottom line, I think the stimulus package is over here, our current problems are over there, and never the twain will meet.
AB: Much is being made of the stimulus bill providing $1-3 billion for aviation infrastructure. Yet, on the surface it appears that it’s all semantics, because that’s money that would have been in the Airport Improvement Program anyway. True?
Boyd: Exactly; and $3 billion — hell, you spend almost double that building one airport. The $3 billion isn’t going to go a whole lot of places. How do you use it? Where do you use it? Obviously, it’s needed; no one is going to argue that. There really isn’t a plan for it.
AB: What do you think of the current way investment priorities are set via the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS)? Is there a better way?
Boyd: I can’t think of a better one, to be honest. I don’t think it’s perfect. We’ve looked at it. Like discretionary funding — it’s a disgusting program. It’s a disgusting system in which we have to go beg, and your Congressman is bigger than mine.
I’ve looked at it and I can’t find something better. The problem is that the funding mechanism is herky-jerk. Actually, Amtrak is more sure of its funding that aviation is. Amtrak gets its money so we can rumble empty passenger trains through the Dakotas late at night, running late anyway.