The PHX Files - A AAAE Report
Convention highlights; one on one with Jim Morasch
By John F. Infanger, editorial director, & Monica L. Rausch, Associate Editor
PHOENIX — Some 2,300 attendees and 206 exhibiting companies gathered here in May for the American Association of Airport Executives' 71st Annual Conference and Exhibition. A dynamic event, it focused on such topics as security, fixing the Y2K computer glitch, FAA updates on runway incursions and Free Flight, and the introduction of a new FAR Part 139 for airport certification. Here are some highlights.
NPRM Update: Baggage Screening
The comment period on a notice of proposed rulemaking involving the screening of checked baggage for explosives will be extended to the end of August, according to Cathal "Irish" Flynn, associate administrator for FAA's civil aviation security. Although the NPRM will affect air carriers, airports play a role in the positioning of equipment when modifying or building new terminals, says Flynn.
FAA is also currently working on developing and deploying methods to check the performance of baggage screening equipment, so that the agency may eventually set standards by which manufacturers of equipment can be certified.
"We are working as closely as we possibly can with the airport and air carrier community and also with the industry to try to support a technical base in improvement in security," says Flynn.
The agency is also visiting numerous airports to test controlled access security, following up on testing that was done by DOT's Office of Inspector General to see if improvements have been made. He says preliminary results show that airport and air carrier access control has improved, but during the testing, agency inspectors are still slipping through security in some areas and "getting aboard far too many aircraft." Flynn stresses the need to guard the aircraft, especially where baggage is loaded.
Runway incursions; free flight
FAA will be focusing on its safety agenda and increasing the air traffic system efficiency this year, according to Monte Belger, acting deputy administrator for FAA. On the safety side, addressing runway incursions is currently a top priority.
Says Belger, "We are very, very concerned about the increase in the number of runway incursions and alsoÉthe types of runway incursions that are occurring in the system. Some of them are, quite frankly, somewhat troubling in terms of why they occurred and how they could have been prevented. We want to stop this runway incursion problem before there is a major accident."
Runway incursion action teams are tasked to visit 20 airports in the U.S. and have visited ten so far, says Belger. "They are looking at some specific actions that can be taken at that specific airport to address the runway incursion problem. We know this is not an issue where one size fits all. It's got to be done somewhat on a local basis."
FAA is also looking to improve efficiency in the system through the implementation of the first phase of Free Flight, says Becker. He discussed several new air traffic control "tools" which are part of the Free Flight program, including a user request evaluation tool, which allows the controller to look ahead and predict a potential safety conflict beyond his or her sector when granting a request by a pilot. "Before, a controller would have been working in his or her small sector and making a decision based on only what he or she saw in his or her sector of responsibility."
"United Airlines has already told us that at San Francisco some of the tools we put in place there have already saved them $19 million in the past year," says Belger.
One area where industry and FAA work together for efficiency, notes Belger, is the contract tower program. "It is a program which is proven to be cost effectiveÉand stood the test of review," he notes. By October, Belger expects that the agency will complete contracting out services on all Level One VFR towers. FAA will continue to bring others into the program.
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