Smart Skies for who?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The airline industry has a plan spelled out indicating what it wants for the skies over the United States. It’s called “”Smart Skies — Airspace Reform Concepts.”" While at first reading it all might sound logical, closer scrutiny reveals a desire to establish an airline dominated system.

First on the list from the Air Transport Association (ATA) is to “”allocate costs fairly”" among all users. Translate this to mean user fees.

Next, the airlines would like to consolidate facilities by getting rid of 21 en route centers and 197 terminal radar approach control facilities. They say just a few facilities could handle their system-wide operations.

What the airlines consider obsolete equipment — such as non-directional beacons — should be decommissioned, they say, and the flight procedures based on their concept of obsolete equipment eliminated.

Most aircraft operated by the airlines have on-board navigation equipment capable of operating along more precise paths and are not dependent upon fixed airways, the document says, noting the system should be designed to take more advantage of this technology. It adds that airspace design can use these technologies to permit more approaches to airports in instrument weather conditions.

ATA also would like to segregate traffic. “”Large transport aircraft,”" the plan says, “”generally fly faster and higher than smaller, non-commercial aircraft.”" ATA says segregation could recapture capacity that is lost today by restricting speeds.

The airline industry would like to see incentives — operational, financial, or otherwise — to encourage users to adapt to new technologies. “”The system should not exclude non-equippers, but their operations may not be optimized,”" the plan states.

The copyrighted proposal declares that the “”human-centric, maintenance-intensive, ground-based system can no longer keep pace with user demand.”" It admits that transition will be difficult but not because of a lack of technology. “”The true transition challenge,”" it says, “”will be a test of political will.”"

The paper doesn’t mention that general aviation is a major part of the air transportation system, bigger than any single commercial airline in the number of persons transported.

SPECIAL TRAINING PROPOSEDFOR WASHINGTON ADIZ FLIGHTS

If you are going to fly VFR within 100 miles of Washington, D.C., the FAA now wants you to take training about the ADIZ. The FAA issued a notice of proposed rule making earlier this month, citing more than 1,000 violations of the Washington ADIZ. The training course may be taken on a computer from FAA’s website. A pilot completing the training will receive a certificate to be printed out, which must be available to show to authorized persons from the FAA, National Transportation Safety Board, federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, or the Transportation Security Administration. Pilots not able or not wanting to take the training on a computer may take it in person at an FAA facility.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) sees the proposed rule as “”a de facto expansion of the ADIZ to engulf 117 airports.”" The association said it favors education and training but cannot support FAA’s proposed implementation of the training requirement.

Comments about the proposed rule may be submitted until Sept. 5, 2006. Pilots will have 180 days after the rule becomes effective to complete the training.

See more about this new rule on page 14 of this issue.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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