A Global Thirst for Advanced ATC Services

In his inaugural keynote speech since becoming the Federal Aviation Administration's chief operating officer for the Air Traffic Organization, Hank Krakowski told attendees of the Air Traffic Control Association's (ATCA) annual conference how the FAA is working to satisfy "the global thirst" for additional services and operations.

States the former United Airlines pilot and executive: "Our current airspace system has served us well for five decades. But we acknowledge that it is reaching its physical limits. We also have an evolving system with a new fleet mix, ranging from the A380, to very light jets and unmanned aerial systems -- all with superior onboard technology. And then if you add the development of the commercial space industry, this will be a new challenge for airspace management. It is our fundamental mission to enable this growth and evolution.

"Given the cumbersome ability to build new airports and runways, flexible, dynamic airspace is what is required sooner than later and beyond. Otherwise, the delays, the congestion, will continue to escalate and frustrate.

"This past summer, aviation delays hit an all-time high. If there ever was a 'burning platform' to highlight the need, the situation in New York is certainly illustrative. Here, nearly a third of the nation's traffic operates with roughly 7,000 flights per day. By 2011, it's projected to be 8,000.

"The situation at JFK is illustrative. At JFK, no one group -- not the FAA, not the airport, not the airlines -- can solve this problem. There is no silver bullet. It's everyone's problem and therefore everyone's solution.

"We, in the FAA, are taking several steps to address the immediate problem: implementing airspace redesign, adding technology and procedures, and asking air carriers to work with us to reduce operations during the peak hours.

"Yet these mitigations only represent a band-aid solution, insufficient given the prospect of a 62 percent increase in delays by 2014. The NYC situation is an example of why we have collectively committed to create NextGen. And as we build NextGen, we need to keep the safety imperative firmly in mind," Krakowski states.

He added that as part of the FAA's Safety Roadmap, the aviation agency is well on its way to implementing a Safety Management System. "SMS is our corporate framework that provides an integrated and systematic approach to managing safety risk. Simply put, that means that every step we take toward NextGen, we're assessing and mitigating risk and more importantly, recognizing the human factors with such automation."

Krakowski used the ATCA event to extend the National Air Traffic Controllers Association an olive branch, thanking the controllers union for signing an agreement to further pursue and implement the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP). "My aspiration is to do everything I can at the working level to build a better labor atmosphere and I view the ATSAP program as a first step. I applaud NATCA's willingness to work with me and I look forward to working with all the ATO labor organizations."

He notes that a decade ago the government, industry, and labor came together and created CAST, the Commercial Aviation Safety Team. "In those ten years, we have reduced the fatal accident rate of commercial aviation 65 percent. Last year there were no fatalities. CAST is now evolving into an uncharted world of data sharing and analysis across those constituencies.

Neither the great ten-year result nor the promise of doing even better through data sharing would be possible without trust and alignment."