Issues facing airports in 2000 and beyond
BY John F. Infanger, editorial director
November / December 1999
LAS VEGAS — Jeffrey P. Fegan serves as executive director of one of the world's largest airports — Dallas/Ft. Worth International — in terms of passenger movements, cargo, and economic impact. He came into the airport management ranks sort of backwards, serving as an airport consultant prior to getting into administration of a particular facility. It allowed him to touch different airports and gain perspective from different types of managers, he will tell you.
In October, Fegan was named to his new position as chairman of the Airports Council International - North America during the group's annual meeting here. ACI-NA is the regional division of Airports Council International, based in Geneva, and serves the interests of primary airports and their sponsors in the U.S. and Canada.
During the Las Vegas meeting, Fegan sat down with AIRPORT BUSINESS to discuss his and the association's positions on various issues of interest to the industry. Here's an edited transcript of that session.
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On key issues he would like ACI-NA to focus on during his time as chairman in 2000 ...
There are a couple of issues that we would like to go after as aggressively as we have gone after the legislative issues. First and foremost are the environmental issues and some of the difficulties airports are having now and will have in the future as relates to, for example, general conformity on air quality issues. It's not just the big cities but a lot of the medium-sized cities that are starting to be affected by that and, over time, more and more cities will have the same air quality issues to face.
The other thing that's both interesting and disturbing is the increasing level of delays being experienced in the airport system. There's a lot of people pointing fingers at each other, but it's rather profound to think that at D/FW, for example, our delays have increased by 93 percent. And we're in a drought situation, so I don't think we can attribute it all to weather. I think there are some other systematic problems that need to be addressed. It's going to be an issue of capacity on the ground as well as air traffic control.
On specific environmental concerns ...
What we need to be concerned about is the potential of airport development projects now moving forward as a result of trying to meet the general conformity requirements that the FAA is now imposing on airports. The general conformity basically involves ensuring that the airport is within the guidelines of the state implementation plan. Historically, some state implementation plans have not been allocating appropriate pollutant levels that will allow an airport to operate or function within those levels and grow in the future. You have to have realistic baseline numbers that airports can live within, and still have some room to grow if we're going to accommodate this near doubling of traffic expected over the next 10-15 years.
The other part of it, I think, is that airports really do need to be much more aggressive and take on whatever we have control over — those things like our vehicle selection, and to encourage our tenants like the airlines to go to alternative fuel or electric tugs. You can make a pretty dramatic increase in improvement of air quality by making those kind of selections.
The one other part of it is, who is responsible for the emissions that come from aircraft? We are not in the business of controlling airport operations; in fact, we are in the business of promoting the growth of aircraft operations.
On where ATC will be in five years ...
I think we're going to continue to struggle with capacity issues five years from now. Changes are particularly slow when it comes to FAA, whether it be procedural or purchase of equipment. I do think, though, that Congress and the general public are starting to become more aware of it and, once you identify a problem and you're able to create the resources to address that problem, you can see some significant progress.