High Speed, Low Pass -- Notes from AAAE 2007

June 15, 2007
The editors report from Washington, D.C.
High Speed, Low Pass – Notes from the AAAE 2007 Bullet points from this year’s 79th Annual AAAE Conference & Exposition, Washington, D.C. (Compiled by Editorial Director John F. Infanger & Associate Editor David Mantey.) • Start-up airline Skybus, headquartered in Columbus, OH, is up and running and is 100 percent Internet-based, according to company CEO and keynote speaker Bill Diffenderfer. The company has four Airbus A-319s in its current fleet, with another 80 A-319s on order at the factory. Comments Diffenderfer, “The basic model [for Skybus] was, Ryanair meets Southwest meets technology.” • DOT Secretary Mary Peters calls on Congress to get reauthorization legislation passed by September. High on the Bush Administration’s wish list, she says, is ATC modernization, which is critical to meet future demand. Continuing resolutions, cautions Peters, will lead to delays in getting infrastructure built as well as higher costs in an escalating construction environment. • It currently looks as though the passenger facility cap of $7.50 being pushed by airports won’t happen – it’s expected that $6 may be the more realistic figure. Incoming AAAE chair Krys Bart says airports will continue to lobby Washington for a higher cap and says she prefers the cap be lifted altogether, allowing local markets to determine the appropriate PFC level. Comments Bart, “I absolutely need those PFCs.” • The NextGen program continues to explore the best ways to modernize air traffic control, with ADS-B technology seen as the driver to the new system. ADS-B is also being deployed in Canada. According to David Ford, VP of strategic programs with Era, implementation of the ADS-B system will afford information updates to cockpits in one-second intervals. The result for air carriers will be savings in the billions, he says. But, he adds, it’s going to take billions to equip the fleet. • Meanwhile, FAA’s Kate Lang says implementing a system based on ADS-B will bring a rethinking to airport layouts, with the potential to dramatically reduce runway separation requirements. “Building runways inside runways” is how she phrases it. • Recently appointed FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Kirk Shaffer tells airports that vehicle/pedestrian deviations (VPDs) are “very high on our list of priorities,” particularly in light of last August’s accident at Lexington, KY. Shaffer challenges airports to get up in the tower frequently to discuss airfield activities, particularly when airfield construction is underway. • In a lively discussion among airline properties folks, Southwest VP Robert Montgomery says that costs at airports are a “headwind” for air carriers, and one that is increasing. He says Southwest’s airport costs are already up $89 million over last year. Laura Einspanier, VP of corporate real estate for American Airlines, questions the commonly held belief that airport costs account for an average 4 percent of total airline costs to operate. “It’s approaching 8 percent,” she says. • Thomas Cowley, deputy director for the Registered Traveler (RT) Program Office with TSA, calls RT “a better way to separate the known and the unknown.” Bill Connors, executive director and COO with the National Business Travel Association, comments, “There is a tremendous appetite for this.” According to Connors, some companies are willing to pick up the bill for employee RT registration if there is indeed a time savings. • When it comes to identifying and deploying new technologies, Mike Golden, assistant administrator for operational process and technology, chief information /technology officer with TSA, says that one of the hot products is the new liquid bottle detector (FIDO). Golden says that as a result of nimble, flexible technologies, passenger screening “is no longer the box in the corner.” The 2.5-pound, handheld liquid detection system has been a part of a pilot testing program at six major airports — the most recent test being conducted at Logan International Airport. • According to TSA deputy assistant administrator of operational process and technology Adam Tsao, TSA is reevaluating checkpoints to come up with an entirely new model, rather than suffer from “gadget envy” (implementing new technologies as they come out as opposed to having a long-term agenda). According to Tsao, the agency is looking for systems that are cost-effective, have a stable hardware platform as well as an open platform for future development, and drive down costs while driving up throughput. • Patricia Krall, vice president of business development with L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems, presented a millimeter wave threat detection system that scans a passenger in three seconds. • Another example of a checkpoint screening alternative came from Steve Pelham, director of U.S. Sales for Reveal Imaging Technologies. Reveal’s Fusion 4D initially scanned 78 bags per hour (BPH) when introduced, and is currently certified to 127 BPH. By this fall, Pelham expects the system to be up to 200-plus BPH. • Results from the backscatter pilot program at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport indicate TSA “is seeing a tremendous amount of public acceptance,” according to Tsao. When offered the option between a ‘pat down’ and a backscatter scan, 75 percent of passengers chose the backscatter. • Tsao states that TSA is also looking to take over document checking, which will provide the agency “another chance to look for hostile intent,” Tsao says. It’s part of the Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program. Congratulations: • Former AAAE chair Loretta Scott, A.A.E., was honored by the South Central Chapter with the renaming of the Accreditation Academy as the Loretta Scott Accreditation Academy. Scott led the development and implementation of the academy, which has trained more than 900 students enrolled in the Accredited Airport Executive program. (Look for more on the AAAE Convention in the July edition of AIRPORT BUSINESS magazine.)