Monthly Archives: October 2009

NextGen—It’s Airport-Centric

I had the opportunity to attend the House Aviation Subcommittee’s hearing regarding the Next Generation Air Transportation System—or NextGen—on Oct. 28.  The hearing dealt specifically with the findings of the RTCA NextGen Task Force, which concluded in September. I am pleased that airports were featured prominently during the hearing.

As background, the Task Force was formed in February at the request of the FAA to (1) develop an industry consensus regarding NextGen operational capabilities that can be implemented in the near- and mid-term futures (i.e., by 2018), (2) prioritize these capabilities, (3) identify the actions that industry stakeholders, the FAA, and others need to take to implement them and where these actions need to be taken, and (4) identify steps that can be taken to expedite these actions.  The Task Force—which was composed of a broad cross-section of aviation stakeholders—enumerated steps that can be taken by the aviation industry to expedite the implementation of NextGen.  It also took a detailed look at the business case behind proposed NextGen capabilities and prioritized capabilities that promise high benefits at reasonable cost.  ACI-NA served as the primary representative of the airport community in Task Force efforts; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also participated directly.

As those of you that attended our NextGen session at ACI-NA’s 18th Annual Conference know, ACI-NA firmly believes that NextGen begins and ends at airports.  This message was echoed in the testimony presented by RTCA President Margaret Jenny and FAA Air Traffic Organization CEO Hank Krakowski at the hearing.  Both Jenny and Krakowski noted that the Task Force’s recommendations were “airport-centric,” with specific focus on improving the efficiency of surface, runway, and terminal airspace operations.

Stating that NextGen “doesn’t have an on-switch,” Krakowski also acknowledged that the implementation of NextGen will be an evolutionary process that will be achieved incrementally as newer-generation aircraft equipped with NextGen technologies enter the fleet.

Witness Dr. Gerald Dillingham of the Government Accountability Office cited a few critical challenges associated with NextGen.  From my perspective, the most important among these for airports is the challenge that local environmental issues—primarily noise issues associated with altering flight procedures and redesigning airspace—pose to the full realization of NextGen benefits.

Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI) both complimented FAA for engaging a broad range of industry stakeholders in the Task Force, and encouraged the FAA to incorporate the recommendations into its ongoing work efforts.  They also encouraged FAA to continue its close coordination with the industry—including airports—as it moves forward. Krakowski committed to do so.

Two of the most memorable statements of the hearing came from House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN).  In the first, Chairman Oberstar stated that the development of NextGen needs to be accountable to those that are paying for it—namely U.S. air passengers—which are funding the system through their ticket taxes.  In the second, the Chairman emphatically encouraged passage of FAA reauthorization noting that without it—and the funding increases it includes—NextGen benefits won’t be realized.
-Chris Oswald, VP, Safety & Technical Operations

Airports and MIT Global Airline Consortium

It is a lovely day at Boston Logan Airport, which is the location from which I am writing this blog.  I just left my first meeting of the MIT Global Airline Consortium. ACI-NA is the newest member of the Consortium, which also includes the Air Transport Association, Air Canada, Amadeus, Boeing, Lufthansa Airlines, Boeing and SITA.  Today we were briefed on 10 research projects currently underway, covering many issues of importance to airports and the aviation industry. 

As you might expect, much of the discussion centered on delays and improving the U.S. air traffic management system. But we also talked about the implications of Congressional proposals which would mandate that airlines provide passengers the option to deplane if there was a three hour delay on the tarmac. Dr. Amy Cohn of the University of Michigan (MIT graduate) is leading this research and I was pleased to hear that she not only recognized the importance of obtaining the airport industry perspective (through ACI-NA). Further, she had already arranged a meeting with Jim Crites, of DFW Airport. Jim has been an industry leader on this issue, providing much of the information included in the airport section of the DOT Tarmac Delay Task Force report released in December 2008.

I served with Jim, Ben DeCosta/ATL, George Doughty/ABE and Brad Penrod/PIT on the DOT Task Force and continue to respond to numerous press calls on this issue.  Travelers remain concerned and the fact that tarmac (taxi out or in) delays of more than three hours are a very small fraction of airline delays does not assuage their fears.  That became even more obvious to me over the last week.  Frankly I was blown away by the number of people who called me after seeing my interview in the article by Chris Elliott in the Washington Post Travel Section on October 25.  Chris initially called ACI-NA to find out if passengers should call 911 if they were trapped on an airplane.  The answer is no and I suggested that if passengers want to make a call to help resolve the situation, it should be the airline as they have the ability to take action.  While airports stand ready to offer assistance in deplaning passengers, we do not have the legal authority to order the airline to return to the terminal.  It was a good conversation and clear that Chris really wanted to provide assistance to his readers. 

At the end of the day, the answer is to not only respond effectively to the small number of extended tarmac strandings, but to work hard to prevent them.  I am hopeful that some of the research undertaken at MIT, funded in part by airports and airlines, will help.
-Debby McElroy, EVP, Policy & External Affairs

McCarran benefits from AMT relief

I had the opportunity to tour Las Vegas McCarran International Airport on Friday and got a look at the 1.9 million square foot Terminal 3 (T3) project that is underway.  T3 is part of a $3.5 billion capital improvement plan at the airport, which will provide an annual airport-wide capacity of more than 53 million passengers.

Work underway on Terminal 3at McCarran, which will have 14 new gates.

Work underway on Terminal 3at McCarran, which will have 14 new gates.

The new terminal will provide 14 new gates, including six designed to accommodate international air traffic, and is scheduled to open in 2012.  This state-of-the-art terminal was almost derailed due to the downturn in the economy, and would have been, if not for the two year Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) holiday included in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) passed by Congress at the beginning of the year.  The two year AMT holiday for private activity bonds (PABs) was included in the ARRA along with a five year refinancing provision.  This action opened up the bond market, which had been virtually frozen in late 2008.

The construction on McCarran's Terminal 3 is expected to create 2,600 jobs at its peak.

The construction on McCarran's Terminal 3 is expected to create 2,400 jobs at its peak.

McCarran was able to place $550 million of bonds using the AMT holiday, and the money raised was essential for the $2.5 billion T3 project.  Randy Walker, Director of Aviation at McCarran, told the Senate Democratic Steering Group in July that the funding provided by the bond sale was crucial in the continuation of the project.  Walker projected that closing down the project would have eliminated 1,600 jobs, which they would have been forced to do without the infusion of money provided by the bond sale.  This work is planned to continue through calendar year 2011, peaking at 2,400 jobs: jobs which would not have been maintained without Congress’ passage of the AMT exemption on PABs.

Jane Calderwood, vice president,
government and political affairs

Stimulus Watch: Nashville International Airport

Last winter, the Metropolitan Nashville Aviation Authority (MNashville Stimulus 2NAA) received some welcomed news from the Memphis Airport District Offices. Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Nashville International Airport (BNA) would receive almost $4.8 million in stimulus funds, all of which would be used for the airport’s terminal apron repair project.

The project involves repair of the entire terminal apron, which is approximately 91 acres in area and is constructed mostly of concrete.  Repairs include small repairs, partial depth repairs, full-depth repairs, full-panel replacement, crack repairs, and trench drain repair.  All joints were to be stripped, cleaned and sealed.  Pavement marking was to be replaced once repairs and joint sealing were complete.

In addition to these repairs, two separate areas of the apron, approximately 3.6 acres total, were to be reconstructed.  These two areas are currently constructed in asphalt and will be a full-depth reconstruction with concrete.  The work for reconstruction includes milling and removal of existing pavement, reconstruction of pavement section, minor apron lighting and signage relocation, minor shoulder grading, and pavement marking.

The MNAA already has in place an active pavement management program which identifies, categorizes, and schedules airfield pavement projects. The Terminal Apron Repair Project was a part of this program and was scheduled as an upcoming project. But with all of the work necessary to conduct this repair project, MNAA was anxious to get started. Fortunately, funding provided by the ARRA allowed the project to proceed ahead of schedule.

Nashville Stimulus 1Getting the project shovel-ready to apply for stimulus funds wasn’t the easiest of tasks. “Due to the aggressive time frame associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the project was designed “in-house” by the MNAA,” said Emily Richard, MNAA manager of Corporate Communications. “Using available personnel and resources, MNAA was able to complete the field investigation, project design, and project bidding within approximately three months.” According to Richard, MNAA was the first airport, within the Memphis ADO, to have a shovel-ready project available for ARRA funding.

A total of five companies submitted bids for the project, but The Harper Company, of Hebron, Kentucky, was awarded the contract. Approximately 116 jobs were created in relation to this project. The work included milling and removal of existing asphalt pavement, repair and reconstruction of concrete pavement, minor apron lighting and signage relocation, minor apron shoulder grading, and pavement marking.

Now with the project near completion, MNAA is looking forward to reaping the benefits. “The project will provide the airport with extended pavement life due to the repair and reconstruction involved,” explained Richard. “Furthermore, the project will offer better customer service to the traveling community by providing the airlines a safe, efficient and smooth operational area.”
-Vicky Houghton

Airport Management Accreditation Program Takes Off

ACI-President Greg Principato at the AMPAP Booth with Cheryl Marcell, Deputy Director, Marketing and PR, Sacramento, and Paul Behnke,f ACI Team Leader for AMPAP.

ACI-President Greg Principato at the AMPAP Booth with Cheryl Marcell, Deputy Director, Marketing and PR, Sacramento, and Paul Behnke, ACI Team Leader for AMPAP.

I saw this photo and immediately wanted to post it and let folks know what all these acroynms in the poster behind us in the photo actually mean, and why they are becoming well known among airport operators worldwide.

ACI and ICAO launched the global Airport Management Professional Accreditation Program (AMPAP) in March 2007.  Airport managers completing the 6-course program within 3 years earn the title International Airport Professional (IAP), the only global professional accreditation for airport personnel. 

AMPAP has grown to over 220 participants from 50 countries.  The program has persevered on target through the current industry-wide downturn and plans to expand in 2010 to offer the gateway Air Transport System (ATS) course 12 times, roughly doubling the size of the programme (the ATS course was offered 15 times in the past two years).  In some respects, AMPAP has exceeded expectations, even in these tough times. 

For example, while candidates have 3 years to complete their coursework, we have already seen nearly 40 persons (about half from NA) earn their IAP accreditation, some in as short a time as one year!  This outcome was not foreseen: but it is a great advantage for ACI and ICAO to have so many IAPs emerge so early in the programme.  This “competition to finish early” is quite healthy for the program and it  gives us a large pool of “ambassadors,” graduates from the program whom we mobilize to recruit new candidates.   An example of the enthusiasm of AMPAP graduates comes from Perry Miller, Assistant Director, Houston Airport System: “The experience you gain in working with other people across the globe in coordinating activities is just phenomenal.  I have formed relationships with people all over the world where I can pick up the phone and compare experiences: no other programme can top that!”

Another measure of AMPAP’s success is the recognition by the Toulouse Business School of the value of the programme, which it examined very closely.  In the university’s MBA programme, AMPAP courses are given one full course credit to students, a considerable achievement for courses based on just one-week of content.

 Some 30 months after it’s launch, I believe AMPAP stands out as a success because it is filling a valuable need for ACI members and enhancing the reputation of airport management as a unique and complex profession.  For my part, my role in interfacing with ICAO and in marketing and delivering AMPAP courses all over the globe is  the most rewarding phase of my career.  There is nothing like an intense week in a classroom with a score of high energy airport managers:  the challenge of communicating and problem-solving across cultures is absolutely exhilarating.  

 — By Paul Behnke, ACI Team Leader for AMPAP, pbehnke@aci.aero