"Crisis in Confidence" Robert A. Sturgell speaks at ATCA Technical Symposium

Acting Adminstrator Sturgell addresses industry and government officials on importance of keeping focus on the future of the air traffic control system.
{Speech Follows} Good morning, and thank you, Pete [Dumont]. Let me say once again that ATCA is helping to bring focus to the right thing at the right time. I know I speak for Dr. [Karlin] Toner when I say that NASA and the FAA owe you a debt of gratitude for helping all of aviation keep its eye on the ball. With all the happenings around us, we need to stay focused and keep moving forward. We cannot lose sight of the importance of the air traffic control system or the industry to our nation. Without question, were at a critical juncture in the history of aviation. I think its fair to say that were in a crisis mode a bit ironic since we havent had a major accident in almost 24 months. So wheres the crisis? The crisis is a crisis in confidence. Its the kind of thing that happens when the flying public faces one more challenge after another. The weather of summer rolls in, and so do the delays. The fuel costs rise, and the airlines charge you 15 or 25 dollars for a bag that used to be free. And you cant bring a bottle of water through security. And the schedules are still jammed, with everyone wanting to take off at 8 and return the same day at 5. You just look at the tote board and you see a dozen flights all leaving at 8:03. We all know that 10 of those flight cant leave at that time. It ripples through the system. The safety issues continuously test our confidence in the system. In that arena, we cannot be complacent with past success. Then, there are those who should know better using scare tactics as bargaining chips. When Labor tells America, Im afraid to let my family fly. Thats just shameful. Theyre in this business, and they know how safe it is. Efficiency is another matter, but the bottom line for this system of ours is that its safe. Were the international gold standard for safety, and everybody knows it. No, its not perfect. That is our challenge. All of this comes on top of the others who use aviation as a political football. Some of them are elected, some are appointed, some have found their niches as talking heads or aviation experts. In the past, aviation has been relatively immune from this kind of activity, but no more. And now comes economic uncertainty for our customers. Both the airlines and the flying public. As an air traffic service provider, we need to be responding to the need for better service and efficiency as airlines announce cuts, furloughs and cost-cutting efforts. But we cant do this alone. Consider the state of our reauthorization. Its on hold. Its on yet another short-term extension one that comes due at the end of the month. When youre in a state of crisis, you cant afford to put short-term or long-term investments on hold. Yet thats whats happening. NextGen schedules are beholden to a steady funding stream. If you told a bank that you wanted to build a house this way, theyd tell you to rent a condo. And theyd be right. We need that reauthorization, and we need it now. Short-term extensions dont help. Reasonable minds can disagree, but were at the place where schedule slippage is a very real concern. Of course as we all know, the full ramifications of a schedule slip arent always readily apparent. When you skip planting season, the consequences dont really come home to roost until harvest time. Thats where we find ourselves right now. Just putting it off doesnt mean that theres not going to be hell to pay down the road. And that always seems to come around faster than you thought it would at the time. The hold-up is not good for the environment. With the worlds focus on being green, our bill has some key environmental provisions that will pay dividends in both the short term and in the long term. The Research Consortium for Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise is a partnership that establishes a world-class consortium. The acronym CLEEN says it all. Its going to make a difference in fuel efficiency, noise, alternative fuels and retrofits. And the plan is to mature the technologies quickly to penetrate the fleet within the NextGen time frame. Our Airport Cooperative Research Program will be made permanent. The bill adds five million a year for environmental research on the ground. Were talking about reducing community exposure to noise. Were talking about reducing aviation emissions. When you have the chance to lock something like this in place, youve got to go there. Our Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative is a partnership with DoD, the airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers and academia. Weve got more than a hundred participants, sponsors like ACI, AIA, ATA. Theyre working to identify fuels that have safe and practical utility for aircraft. The requirements include a secure supply, being cost-effective and being green. With respect to continuing to move forward and providing a more efficient air traffic system, the NextGen technology and procedures are clearly working as advertised. Youre already aware of the benefits were getting from continuous descent, required navigational performance and RNAV routes. RNAV at DFW: 3.3 million dollars and a million gallons of fuel. RNAV at Hartsfield: 6.9 million and 2.5 million gallons. ADS-B $14.8 million dollars and 7.4 million gallons of fuel. CDA at Louisville showed a 3-6 decibel reduction around the airport. The new separation standards we just announced for the East Coast oceanic region increases the available routes by 40 percent. These give controllers the flexibility to offer more efficient altitudes, which gets you where youre going much more quickly. These new routes are projected to reduce aircraft carbon emissions 3.9 million tons and save between 400 and 700 million dollars in fuel costs over the next 15 years. Those are advances and dollars and gallons that are hands-down getting the job done. As an industry, aviation doesnt have much of a choice. For every dollar that crude goes up, it translates into an increase of more than 450 million dollars in fuel costs. At the turn of the century, fuel costs for the airlines were about 16 billion. Theyll more than triple that number this year, despite the industry burning less gas. Fuel efficiency is clearly the way to go. For every 10 percent gain you make in efficiency combined with aircraft, air traffic, airports the industry saves 6 billion dollars. Even with the record-setting delays, commercial aviation has burned 750 million fewer gallons of jet fuel in 2006 than it did in 2000. When the 787 enters the fleet, therell be less CO-2 over a thousand miles per passenger than youd have in your hybrid car. Were moving 12 percent more people and 22 percent more freight than we did in 2000 and were burning 4 percent less fuel and producing 7.6 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide. NextGen is going to do a lot more than answer the environmental mail. From gate to gate, on heavily congested routes, NextGen could save billions across the industry. Impressive numbers but they hinge on collaboration with industry, with the Hill, with every organization with whom we do business. Think about alliances developing between airports that dont have radar and can invest in NextGen technology. They run it, we get the data. With the use of phrases like test bed, sometimes the benefits get lost in the mix. We saw this work in Louisville and Alaska. Were seeing it begin to work in Florida with a concentration of activities there. From where I stand, this approach is a targeted, iterative implementation. I also see more of a push away from the old paradigm of government ownership, of government being the driving force. Instead, were going to have a situation where the NextGen vision is something that is a part of your business plan something that opens up possibilities that we arent even thinking about now. Toward this end, we have a series of partnerships that will be announced in the very near future. Theyre examples of how far we can push the envelope in terms of getting the job done. These are the very things we need to do to keep the system moving forward. Theres no question that we also have to be mindful of our international partners and harmonizing our efforts with theirs. Initiatives like AIRE and ASPIRE will help us do so and permit us to put NextGens operate concepts to test on end-to-end international flights. Organizationally, weve added a Senior Vice President for NextGen and Operations Planning to the ATO. It gives us a clear decision-maker and a distinct line of authority on issues relating to NextGen. Vicki Cox will be responsible for the NextGen budget, which includes 5.6 billion in the Presidents request for 2009-2013. No pressure there. Ive asked her to place top priority on keeping stakeholders heavily involved throughout the life-cycle process. You have already been heavily involved in the initial NextGen planning through the NextGen Institute. And as the plans mature into implementation, we will continue to involve you through RTCA, the ATM advisory committee, the Performance-Based operations Advisory rulemaking committee and the RE&D advisory committee. Weve learned in the past that surprises dont serve anyone. Were taking steps to keep it from happening again. Charlie Leader and his team at JPDO have set the stage. Now weve got to execute and implement. All of this is a lot for us to handle, but weve got to do it. One thing is certain, and that is that we all must keep our focus on NextGen. We must restore confidence. As plain as I can say it, weve got to keep our eye on the ball and keep moving. It is particularly critical that we do so in the current airline environment and all stakeholders must be engaged. I look forward to working with you to keep it that way.
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