Airports at a Crossroad

At ACI-NA, the focus is on funding the system and security, and modernizing ATC.


Crichton asserts that the creation of NAV CANADA has allowed Canadian ATC system to have decision-making authority independent of government interference, improved customer service and efficiency, and helped facilitate modernization. Canada is currently in the process of transferring to an ADSB surveillance system. "We may have bought our last radar," Crichton says.

Neil Planzar, who heads Boein air traffic management, is one of the industry's strongest proponents for change in how the U.S. ATC system is managed. "The tools are in place now that allows us to implement a revolutionary change," Planzar asserts.

Planzar maintains that the U.S. air traffic system is currently at 97 percent of capacity and that new enroute systems now being put into operation are having an impact, but not enough. "We're going to have to change, folks," he comments.

He explains that Boeing's interest in modernizing air traffic control is twofold: 1) to sell aircraft - "if the industry doesn't grow because of capacity issues, we don't grow;" and 2) to promote a worldwide system that is compatible - "the ATC system globally must be interoperable."

FINANCING EDS - THE JACOBS STUDY

One of the central sessions of interest at this year's ACI-NA was focused on finding ways to fund the far from complete baggage screening systems mandated by congress just after 9/11. The center of attention was a recent Baggage Screening Investment Study by Jacobs Consultancy (formerly Leigh Fisher Associates), completed in September and endorsed by the joint industry/government Aviation Security Advisory Committee.

Cindy A. Nichol, director for Jacobs, points out that the costs of baggage handling systems and infrastructure far outweigh the cost of screening equipment. She claims that under the current process it will take until 2024 to get full screening systems in place nationwide.

The study was conducted in response to directives in the Intelligence and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The directives require the Department of Homeland Security and TSA to expedite the installation of EDS machines for checked baggage screening, and to complete a cost-sharing study in collaboration with industry stakeholders.

Nichol says that Jacobs looked at "a huge number of alternatives" and agreed that TSA needs to be respon sible for obtaining the EDS machines. One thing taken off the table for consideration was the use of Airport Improvement Program dollars to fund the equipment. "It's needed for other things," Nichol says.

Among the Jacobs study recommendations:

  • Create a voluntary $3 billion tax credit bond program under which airports could issue tax credit bonds to fund security infrastructure;
  • Continue federal appropriations of at least $435 million per year for purchase and installation of EDS equipment;
  • Enhance passenger facility charge eligibility to include tax credit bond sinking fund payments and exclusive-use outbound baggage handling systems; and
  • Implement a formal cost management process that focuses on active engagement of and coordination with stakeholders that includes publishing screening investment guidelines; implementing an enhanced design and funding approval process; increasing TSA program management resources; and, setting an Integrated National Deployment Team and Integrated Local Deployment Teams.

Nichol says adoption of the study's findings could move total implemention up to 2013 while saving the industry some $1.2 billion.

NEW LOBBYING APPROACH

In recent years, ACI-NA and AAAE have lobbied Washington under a joint legislative initiative. According to ACINA's Principato, under the arrangement the association contracted with AAAE for its lobbying services - AAAE did the work and the ACI-NA Board of Directors approved policies, he explains.

Principato says the change is being made due to a concern by ACI-NA members that they were not having the degree of input on the lobbying process that they felt was necessary to have their interests fully represented. He says that having two separate airport lobbying initiatives will provide a "force multiplier."

ACI-NA plans to put out a request for proposals, seeking to team up with a lobbying firm under contract. The two associations will continue to coordinate activities, says Principato, to develop joint strategies. Comments chair Grossman, "It will be one message with many messengers."

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