Mineta: Tech can help clear air
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jan 25, 2001
New Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Wednesday there is no silver
bullet to relieve the nation's air traffic congestion, but making proper
use of existing and new technologies could greatly improve the situation.
In an opening statement at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Mineta had advice
for DOT agencies on technology. He said the Federal Aviation Administration
will not reap the benefits of improvementssuch as new runwaysif it
abandons existing landing systems while it develops new ones, such as satellite
"In several areas, FAA sometimes has a tendency to want to phase out an
existing technology because it believes that a newer and better technology
will be available in the near future," Mineta said in testimony. "Sometimes
the near future then turns out to be not so near."
As an example, Mineta cited instrument landing systems that aid precision
approaches to runways. The FAA plans to replace those systems with a satellite
navigation system based on the Global Positioning System. But the new system
is several years from completion and has already proven to be more complex
And while many airports are building new runways to help ease approach problems,
the FAA may not continue to make instrument landing systems available to
them. Such a decision would reduce the use of those runways in poor visibility,
"In a situation where we cannot keep up with demand, we cannot afford to
stop installing today's technology until tomorrow's technology actually
arrives and is ready to use," Mineta said.
Mineta said he would evaluate technology that would enable the FAA to create
more communications channels within the existing radio spectrum.
He said he is committed to luring experienced technology managers to
government to help apply new technology to air traffic control modernization.
"I know the high-tech industry, and I know that there are talented people
out there who are ready to prove their talent by tackling one of the biggest
technology challenges ever," he said.
"The only sure remedy for air traffic control congestion in the near term
would be a recession, which would suppress demand," Mineta said. "Who among
us wants to advocate that to the American people or to the president as
our alternative to expanding capacity?"
Mineta, a former congressman and Commerce secretary, was approved unanimously
by the full Senate.