NASA to test small-aircraft tech

NASA plans to begin testing new small-aircraft technology later this year

that would enable more direct flights to remote or suburban communities

that are often overlooked by larger commercial airlines.

Bruce Holmes, general aviation program manager at NASA, detailed the agency's

plans for the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) at a House hearing

Tuesday.

"SATS technologies may enable reducing intercity travel times by half in

many markets while increasing the number of communities served by air transportation

tenfold," Holmes said at a hearing held by the House Transportation and

Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee.

SATS consists of new on-board technologies, a new communications system

and new ways of developing aircraft similar to how the automotive industry

works, Holmes said. It also involves training people on a new way to operate

in the National Airspace System.

The SATS concept would use small aircraft — for example, those with four

to six seats — for purposes including personal and business transportation

and on-demand, point-to-point direct travel between smaller regional airports.

SATS would use Internet technology for such things as travel planning and

scheduling. It would not depend on control towers or radar surveillance,

and SATS aircraft would be able to operate in almost any type of weather.

NASA plans to test the SATS concept from fiscal 2001 through fiscal 2005

with proposed funding of $69 million. Once NASA proves that the technology

works, it must persuade officials who own smaller airports to make the investment

in SATS.

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