Department of Commerce (NOAA), the Department of Defense, EPA, and the National Park Service. Resource estimates are provided based on current plans as well as on the above estimated investment profile, which reflects the needs identified by the various agencies but not currently programmed by them over the FY 2007-2011 time period.
Failure to agree on metrics. There is a wide diversity of perspectives today on what the right metrics should be for both noise and emissions. There is no guarantee—even with the additional research under way—that a very diverse group of stakeholders will be able to translate general agreement on direction (absolute reductions) into quantitative targets. Further, any agreement among stakeholders will only be the first step, as changes in legislation will be required.
Legislative risks. Beside metrics, a number of potential issues could come up requiring legislative changes or mandates, especially in the policy area.
New environmental impacts. There are three potential categories of risk in this area. First, current research in local and global emissions may provide information that dramatically changes the current view of the risks—and need for mitigation—of particular environmental impacts. Second, new kinds of aircraft—UAV or supersonic—could introduce new types of environmental impacts and issues in the national system. Finally, new sets of expectations for environmental improvements—e.g., “natural quiet in national parks”—could give rise to pressure for significant changes in how aviation’s environmental impacts are managed.
Federal research and development funding. As this paper has highlighted, large increases are required, especially for NASA, if technology is to be developed, matured, and incorporated into the U.S. fleet in a manner to meet likely environmental performance requirements. The trends in NASA’s aeronautics budget, especially in the vehicle systems program, makes this significantly more challenging.
Failure to deliver environmental technology innovation. Funding is not equivalent to delivery of innovation and its implementation in the system. The next 5 to 7 years of environmental technology innovation is critical if we are to make a difference in the fleet of the next 20 years.
Industry financial pressure. The industry is headed to losing $35 billion since 2000, remains financially fragile, and has continuing pressures for regulatory spending, especially security. Environmental spending tends to take a back seat to spending on both safety and security. Even if new technology is developed, the industry may not be in a position to make a rapid incorporation of these technologies—through purchase of new aircraft or through retrofitting of existing aircraft—due to weak balance sheets and operating prospects as well as competing federal requirements.