operational procedures are becoming increasingly important to U.S. aviation industry economics. (OTA, 1997, p. 13)
The Integrated Plan has little to say about implementation other than to acknowledge that the IPTs will need to address implementation and transition issues. For example, Chapter 6 of the Integrated Plan, “Approach to Transformation,” contains only a short section on changes in interactions between the government and the private sector, and the discussion is quite general. Much more work is needed to enable successful implementation of NGATS.
The Integrated Plan acknowledges that “the ability to manage effectively across government agencies and fuel government/industry partnerships as the engine of transformation has never been more critical to this country…. Planning and executing a transformational program through partnership requires identifying the key partners, establishing an organizational framework, and implementing processes that support their collaboration” (NGATS JPDO, 2004, p. 22). The assessment committee believes the JPDO’s implementation approach should use organizational collaboration and focus on development of operational products. Successful implementation of NGATS requires an Integrated Plan that does the following:
Clearly addresses the needs of the traveling public, shippers, and other system users, which vary with fluctuations in the economy.
Establishes a source of stable funding suitable for development, implementation, and operation of NGATS, including capital improvements.
Proposes reforms in governance and operational management that assure accountability and limit the effect of traditional external influences. The interests of individual stakeholders should be balanced with the common good in a way that expedites the deployment of optimal technologies and procedures and achieves the primary goal of meeting increased demand.
Defines an NGATS that efficiently interfaces with the rest of the global air transportation system.
Most airspace congestion problems in the United States disappeared on 9/11 because of the large decline in commercial air travel. Demand is now recovering to pre-9/11 levels, however, and substantial airspace congestion will recur if modernization efforts do not increase capacity quickly enough. The situation would be exacerbated if the use of small IFR aircraft for intercity travel increases substantially, as the JPDO projects.
The JPDO and the Integrated Plan should clearly and convincingly define the problems that the air transportation system faces and how the changes proposed by the Integrated Plan will solve those problems. Because of the divergent self-interests of different members of the community, reaching consensus will require consistently strong, high-level leadership.
One of the most difficult implementation challenges will be motivating stakeholders to accept change that may lead to an uncertain future in terms of the costs that each stakeholder must bear and the benefits that will accrue. This will be especially difficult where stakeholders are asked to look past their self-interest to improve the air transportation system in ways that primarily benefit others. In some cases, the government can simply mandate change and require industry and other stakeholders to comply, but such an approach is not always appropriate, helpful, or even possible. Economic incentives can be effective and should be considered, though they are often difficult to implement equitably. Even within the federal government, it is often difficult to get action unless a situation is in crisis, yet the goal of the JPDO is to avoid an air transportation crisis rather than wait for one to act as the engine for change. As part of the JPDO’s outreach effort, it is working with state aviation organizations and FAA staff involved with the FAA’s Operational Evolution Plan.
The Integrated Plan states on page 24 that the Senior Policy Committee and JPDO “must create a new model of collaboration throughout government and industry.” Currently, Europe seems to be advancing faster than the United States in many areas covered by the Integrated Plan. Factors contributing to European success include the following:
The Europeans recognize the traveling public as the primary customer for the system.
A powerful champion (a former vice president of the European Commission) has supported changes to the current system.
Europe has been much more willing to mandate some changes than the United States. For example, despite having comparably complex airspace system, Europe implemented reduced vertical separation minima from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet long before these changes were implemented in the United States.
Government-industry cooperation has been more effective than in the United States, in part because it is so difficult for U.S. airlines and other important stakeholders to reach consensus on key issues. Moving forward will be very difficult in the United States without a process that (1) fairly balances the need to create an air transportation system that can meet future demand while avoiding undue hardship for any particular element of the air transportation system and (2) ensures that changes endorsed by a majority of the U.S. air transportation community acting in the national interest cannot be thwarted by the opposition of a vocal minority acting out of self-interest without due regard for the national interest.