Air traffic control at 'end of era'

The drop in passenger demand following last year's terrorist attacks and the troubles plaguing airlines have diverted attention from long-term problems in civil aviation, according to the Aerospace Industries Association.

"The air traffic control system we have today is at the end of its era," AIA President and CEO John Douglass said at the 38th annual year-end review and forecast luncheon Dec. 11.

Douglass called for renewed modernization efforts, one of nine recommendations the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry made. In a report released Nov. 18, the commission offered an action plan that includes developing a new, highly automated system.

The current situation and outlook for aviation are bleak, according to AIA.

Annual aerospace sales decreased 3 percent to $148 billion in 2002 and are projected to decline another $10 billion in 2003. Industry jobs fell by 72,000. And total orders were down 7 percent to $134 billion.

The federal government needs to commit more money to aerospace, Douglass said, adding that not all changes require funding. The Federal Aviation Administration, for instance, should draw on technologies already in use by the Defense Department and NASA, he said.

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