On October 28, 2008, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell rolled out the FAA’s 2009-20013 “Flight Plan” at a speech in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The “Flight Plan,” in which FAA sets goals for itself, is “the strategic plan for the agency, the plan to help [the agency] prepare for the future.” In the past year, for example, as Acting Administrator Sturgell pointed out, the FAA “reached 25 out of 29 goals,” with the remaining goals “probably” being achieved by November 20, 2008. In other words, the goals set in the Flight Plan are projects and issues that the FAA has good reason to believe it can achieve over the stated planning horizon.
Priority one, according to the Flight Plan, is “dealing with congestion and delays . . . both in the air and on the ground. Toward that end, the FAA plans to “identify and address capacity-constrained airports and metropolitan areas.” The FAA has identified Atlanta, Chicago Midway, Fort Lauderdale, John Wayne Orange County (CA), Las Vegas, Long Beach, Oakland, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco as being “capacity constrained” and provided these airports with a “toolbox” which includes “technological, procedural, and infrastructure improvements to be considered for implementation at airports based on additional capacity needs in the future.”
In addition, in FY 2009, the FAA plans to “increase aviation capacity and reduce congestion in the 7 metro areas and corridors that most affect total system delay.” Those areas are: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Charlotte, New York and Philadelphia. Apart from continuing the controversial airspace redesign for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan area, and the slot auctions for JFK, Newark and LaGuardia, which all spawned lawsuits, the FAA plans on moving forward with the redesign of the airspace for the remaining 7 metro areas.
The FAA notes that are eleven projects in the planning or environmental stage at the largest airports including:
- an environmental assessment for a proposed runway extension at Portland;
- an environmental impact statement for a proposed runway extension at Ft. Lauderdale;
- an environmental impact statement for a proposed air reconfiguration at Philadelphia; and
- an environmental impact statement for a new supplemental commercial service airport for Las Vegas.
In addition, the FAA states that three airport proprietors have planning studies underway to examine how their metropolitan areas will accommodate future demand for aviation. They include (1) Chicago, (2) Atlanta, and (3) San Francisco. Thus, expanding airports play a large role in the FAA’s Flight Plan to increase capacity.
The FAA also plans on addressing the environmental issues associated with capacity enhancements. It targets two issues in this area: (1) reducing the number of people exposed to significant noise by 4 % through FY 2013, as measured by a three-year moving average; and (2) improve aviation fuel efficiency by another 1% over FY 2008 level through FY 2009, and 1% each subsequent year through FY 2013 to 11%. While these goals are laudable, the FAA does not offer much in terms of specific programs to reach the goals. The only specific program it mentions is working with several airports (Los Angeles, San Diego, Louisville, Charleston, and Atlanta) to implement Continuous Descent Arrival for night operations. The rest of the FAA’s initiatives center around research, developing standards, and “implementing management systems.”
In the end, FAA is relying heavily on its rollout of the NextGen system to meets its goals, especially with regard to safety. The FAA believes that NextGen will allow it to transition “from air traffic control to air traffic management.”
- FAA ‘Flight Plan’ for 2009 Focuses on Safety and Capacity, Flying Magazine