A Call For Leadership
One idea: a new U.S. Commission of Aviation — one with guts
By William F. Shea, former FAA Associate Administrator for Airports
Is the United States losing its resolve and ability to handle aviation growth? Are we losing our world leadership position in aviation and aerospace? No bold vision for the future aviation system is evident. As industry employees try to do their best to keep the system moving, serious problems continue. Strong leadership is needed now to maintain and expand our nation’s aviation system to meet growth forecasts.
Congress appears uncertain, with some members
uneasy about the new ten-year National Airspace System Operational Evolution
Plan recently introduced by the Federal Aviation Administration, noting
commercial aircraft utilization will grow by 30 percent by 2010. Actual
growth could be even higher. Demand for new jets continues to grow. ATC
will be burdened more than ever.
The recent entry of United Airlines into the corporate fractional market, along with the new 737-type business jets being built, will add a significant impact. We can expect some 1,250 or more large new aircraft coming online by 2020. Are we ready?
A Stretched Dot
The U.S. Department of Transportation, with a record number of air transport complaints, is trying to do the job. Consider, however, some of its other responsibilities: St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation; FAA; Federal Railroad Administration; National Highway Traffic Safety Administra-tion; Federal Highway Administration; Federal Transit Administration; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Maritime Administra-tion; and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The question, of course, is how in the world can the U.S. DOT do justice to aviation and aeronautics, which is so global in nature? Can this nation plan intelligently and creatively to meet the needs of the forecast growth?
Situation Out West
Here in the Western U.S., the three Bay Area airports — San Fran-cisco, Oakland, and San Jose — could expect 111 million passengers departing and arriving by 2015. There is no way these airports will be able to handle that growth, even if they added five runways.
One answer may be an adjacent shore-to-land airport, or a new airfield to the east. Political and environmental reasons make these unlikely. A quick-term answer is to use Travis Air Force Base on East Bay.
Los Angeles International will eventually reach its cap. One reason is surface access brought about by unconstrained growth.
The former El Toro Marine Air Base offers potential to add capacity, but an offshore airport located between LAX and San Diego would be ideal.
In the Northwest, Sea-Tac will continue to have serious expansion problems. And, Portland Internation-al Airport (PDX) will experience similar challenges. Incidentally, PDX has a trump card it could play: build a new international airport in the Willamette Valley to the south.
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