FAA office to get help on easing crowded skies
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jan 21, 2001
National Airspace System Operational Evolution plan
Federal Aviation Administration leaders are joining with union and industry
officials to create a plan they hope will help a new air traffic services
organization set priorities and manage solutions in modernizing the National
The plan will help guide the FAA as it complies with recent legislation
and a presidential order that changed the structure and leadership of the
agency to make day-to-day air traffic management more efficient and make
the agency operate more like a business.
Continuing delays at the busiest airports, which are operating at or
above capacity, are driving the high-level NAS Operational Evolution plan,
said Monte Belger, FAA acting deputy administrator, at the Jan. 17 Air Traffic
Control Association Inc. meeting in Washington, D.C. The plan will guide
the agency's regulations, acquisitions and investments.
"We spend every Monday afternoon with senior managers to go over every
program and make sure it relates to the problem, the cause and the solution,"
The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st
Century boosts investment in modernization and airport construction by more
than $10 billion to a total of $40 billion during the next three years.
Under the terms of the act, the agency must appoint a chief operating officer.
An executive order signed in December directs the FAA to create a performance-based
organization (PBO) for air traffic control, to be led by the COO once the
position has been filled. The PBO incorporates parts of the agency's Air
Traffic Services organization and its Research and Acquisitions organization.
The latter is responsible for major technology developments, such as systems
to automate controller workstations and a critical system that will allow
pilots to use satellite navigation.
As government and industry stakeholders argue the roles of the COO and
advisory boards, the NAS Operational Evolution plan should be used to drive
those decisions in the right direction, said Peter Challan, FAA dep-uty
associate administrator for Air Traffic Services. "This is our plan," he
said. "This is a plan that is holistic."
However, many details need to be ironed out. "The [organization] sets
the stage for the future of aviation, but there are a lot of questions unanswered,"
said Charlie Huettner, senior aviation policy adviser in the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy. Although the PBO will be responsible
for day-to-day air traffic services, it is not clear what performance measures
will be used or what other parts of the FAA will do, he said.
Evolution, not revolution
The draft version of the National Airspace System Operational Evolution
plan can be found online at www.caasd.org/nas-evol/index.html.
The top-level document looks at possible solutions for four key problems:
- En route congestion.
- Late arrivals/departures.
- Airport weather conditions.
- En route severe weather.