NATA follow-up, Phoenix Focus

June 8, 1999

Phoenix Focus

Highlights from this year's annual convention

BY Monica Rausch, Associate Editor

June 1999

PHOENIX, AZ — New technologies will shape the future of aviation business — the theme for the National Air Transportation Association's 59th Annual Convention. This is the second year NATA held its convention alongside the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association's (PAMA), and the two combined their trade show to hold the AS3 Services and Suppliers SuperShow. The event drew a record crowd of some 4,000 attendees and 406 exhibitors.

In the opening session, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey addressed the agency's approach to implementing augmented GPS, the latest technology in aviation's step towards free flight. "What satellite navigation brings to general aviation is access, access to thousands of airports through instrument approaches in poor weather conditions," says Garvey.

She addressed a current debate over the reliability of GPS as a sole service for navigation, stating that for now, the FAA is focusing on GPS as a sole means. "The term ’sole means' refers to the navigation equipment on an aircraft and signifies that you can choose to have augmented GPS equipment as the only navigation equipment on board your aircraft," she explains. "That differs from the concept of sole service, which GPS with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) and LAAS (Local Area Augmentation System) is ultimately designed to provide." That step from sole means to sole service will be a gradual one, Garvey says.

Current land-based navigation systems won't be decommissioned, notes Garvey, until GPS's performance is perfected and user acceptance is assured. She footnoted a Johns Hopkins study on GPS, released earlier this year, in which GPS was found to be capable of becoming a soles means of navigation.

The date for implementing precision instrument approaches under WAAS was set back from July to September of 2000. The first phase includes some 50 approaches covering one-half of the continental U.S.

Garvey also announced that four VHF frequencies are now set aside for providing digital datalink flight information services, such as graphical weather information, to general aviation aircraft.

A New Marketplace
"Are you ready for a world where economic supply and demand are completely reshaped by new technology?" Dr. James Canton, president of the Institute for Global Futures and a consultant on new technology, asked attendees. The human race is creating and adapting to new technology faster than ever before, he notes. "In the past 50 years, there's been more technology and innovation than in the previous 5,000 years." That's because humans now have the necessary "power tools" to create new technology; he lists four key power tools that will change and impact the global marketplace:
1. Computers: "What we even think about as a computer is going to disappear...Most objects in our society, from books to clothing, all kinds of new hybrid devices, will be powered by advanced microchips."
2. Networks: Bandwidths of the future will allow the transfer of information at 100 times faster than currently possible. Radio transistors embedded in microchips will allow wireless connection of various devices, from refrigerators that download diet information and restrict access to voice- and gesture-activated devices.
3. Bioscience: "What the last century was to computers, the next century will be to bioscience," says Canton. Scientists are working to map the human gene, which will reveal information about humans, from longevity to development to the elimination of diseases.
4. Nanotechnology: This is the "manipulation of matter at the molecular level," or rearranging atoms to make materials. "You're going to have hybrid materials, new synthetic materials that are going to be very strong...nanotachnolgy is going to bring a variety of changes to material science."

Adds Canton. "Ultimately at the end of the day all the new technologies ... are not going to amount to a hill of beans if you don't have the right mindset, the right culture to be able to integrate them."

"It's about using technology to squeeze more efficiency, more opportunity, and more profitability out of your business, because if you don't, someone else might. Be open to the change, learn to use (new technology), get support from others who know how to use it, and I think you'll do just fine in the 21st century," says Canton.

Currently the Internet is already creating a new marketplace, he says, connecting producers directly to buyers in new ways. In 1998, e-commerce was an $8 billion market; by 2002, it will grow to $330 billion, the majority in business-to-business sales.

Prepare for the future environment
Predicted growth in air traffic may be a boon for aviation, but it also presents challenges. Randall Schumacher, an environmental consultant, says environmental interest groups will be targeting airports more in the future.

"There is going to more and more focus on environmental issues aligned with the aviation industry than you've ever seen before...That increase in air traffic is going to have to come at some expense, and the environmentalists will say it's at the expense of the environment because we're going to see more emissions, there's going to be more noise, there's going to be more worker exposure, (and) there's going to be more community risk as a result of these exposures."

Schumacher spent 20 years in the chemical industry dealing with environmental interest groups, and says airports will soon be looked at as a point source for pollution. To be prepared, he recommends taking the following steps ...

Engage: For example, an aviation business's interest in ground activities may not be well represented by air carriers. He recommends making one's position known not only to all the regulators involved, but also to state and Congressional legislators, federal agencies, and the community.

Nationalize: Many problems in the future will be regulated on a national level. Treat problems accordingly, and find others who are also facing the same problems.

Validate: Develop a relationship with credible third-party sources, such as universities, "that have the reputation of not being bought (and) that give you a third-party review of your science."

Innovate: Find new ways to do business, such as developing ways to reuse deicing fluids or recycle other waste products.

Research: Don't do just the technical research; dig into the background of opponents and their allies. "Know what their motivations are, how they're organized, where they get their money."

Outreach: Go beyond the fence and talk to the community, suppliers, allies, and opponents.

Tracking fuel for the Air Force
The future for U.S. Air Force fueling operations is automation, according to Jack Lavin, chief of fuel supply for the U.S. Air Force. Petroleum costs are second only to personnel costs in the U.S. Department of Defense, says Lavin, and the DoD consumes 100 million barrels of petroleum a year.

With budget cuts and slices in manpower, the Air Force had to learn to be more efficient, says Lavin, which meant automating fuel management. Under a new system, the Air Force is bringing transactions into a real-time environment.

The Air Force is currently reviewing bids on a contract for point-of-sale automation for its aircraft and fuel trucks. One of its goals is to do away with credit cards, which can be easily lost, and replace them with tags affixed to the aircraft which record how much fuel each aircraft is using.