NASA to test 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 large 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 such purposes as personal and business transportation

and on-demand, point-to-point direct travel between small 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 a proposed $69 million in funding. Once NASA proves that the technology

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

in SATS.

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