paragraph b-1 of the JPDO implementing legislation, which directs the JPDO to include in the integrated plan “a national vision statement for an air transportation system capable of meeting potential air traffic demand by 2025.” The text of the Integrated Plan often mentions the importance of meeting increased demand, but often as just one item among many, and sometimes the need to meet increased demand is lost altogether. For example, the Plan’s vision mentions customer needs, the global economy, and integration of civil and military operations but does not directly address the challenge of increased demand.

Meeting increased demand is difficult because capacity must be increased while also satisfying enabling, interrelated requirements related to safety, security, environmental protection, consumer satisfaction, and industrial competitiveness. The difficulty of meeting performance goals in each of these other areas would be mitigated if demand were stagnant or declining, but it will be exacerbated if demand increases substantially, as it is projected to do. In other words, improvements in virtually every aspect of the air transportation system are required to meet a substantial increase in demand. Accordingly, the highest priority should be given to research and technology development that is most likely to facilitate large increases in capacity (in terms of passenger miles and cargo ton miles), especially for airspace and airports that are currently at or near capacity limits. The assessment committee drafted a vision statement consistent with these concerns:

Create a U.S. air transportation system that meets the growing demand of the traveling public, shippers, and other system users while encouraging continuous improvement in capacity, efficiency, safety, security, competitiveness, environmental protection, and consumer satisfaction.

GOALS

The future vision for the air transportation system should be supported by research and technology goals leading to improved performance. Measurable long-term targets supported by sound analyses should be established to assess progress toward the goals. Research should support the establishment of quantifiable goals in areas where progress is difficult to measure. (NRC, 2003, p. 7)

The statement of system goals and performance characteristics in the Integrated Plan helps provide some specificity to the JPDO’s vision by identifying qualitative objectives related to U.S. leadership, capacity, safety, environmental protection, national defense, and the security of the air transportation system. However, each of the descriptive goal statements in Chapter 3 of the Integrated Plan would be improved by adding quantifiable goals to the generic exhortations to do better in each area. Goals may be difficult to quantify in some areas, particularly with regard to the long-term future, but they are an essential input for evaluating operational concepts, research proposals, and technologies. The process of developing quantifiable goals will also help achieve the JPDO’s legislative mandate to explain how it derived performance characteristics for the future air transportation system.

The description of goals related to capacity declares unequivocally that the system will include aircraft operator employees at over 5,000 airports. Infrastructure limitations and environmental concerns at small airports, however, are a serious impediment to the expanded use of many small airports. As of 2001, there were 5,025 public use airports in the United States. However, fewer than 3,900 public use airports had runways at least 3,000 feet long, and fewer than 3,600 public use airports had paved runways with runway lighting. Furthermore, the 213 busiest public airports (4.2 percent of the total number) accounted for 98.8 percent of all passenger enplanements. In addition, shifting a significant portion of the traveling public onto small aircraft compatible with small airports could increase airspace congestion and environmental effects. Heavy reliance on small aircraft carrying just a few passengers each would require more aircraft operations to carry the same number of travelers and increase total aircraft emissions. More than 80 percent of domestic intercity trips of 100 miles or longer begin or end in one of the nation’s 160 largest metropolitan areas, and so a substantial increase in the use of small aircraft as a means of intercity travel would tend to exacerbate congestion at large airports that in many cases have little or no spare capacity (NRC, 2002). The assessment committee acknowledges that efforts to distribute traffic to airports with unused capacity may help meet increased demand, but it seems premature to commit to a highly decentralized air transportation system that relies on 5,000 airports as a solution to the key challenge of increased demand. Quantifiable goals are worthwhile, but only if supported by credible analyses.

The Integrated Plan misses the opportunity to establish consumer satisfaction as an area of direct interest to the agencies involved in developing NGATS. This omission stands in contrast to the situation in Europe, where the aviation community as a whole (not just industry) puts goals related to consumer satisfaction on a par with goals related to other factors such as safety, security, and capacity (NRC, 2003).

The description of goals related to national defense should discuss the value of reducing the impact of special-use airspace on civil operations and capacity. This discussion should also address the importance of a smooth transition of the ATM system in time of crisis from civil to military operational control. On 9/11, there was no plan, and the process did not go smoothly. Also, the national defense goal (“Ensure our national defense”) and the objectives related to national defense are overly broad, given the supporting role that NGATS plays in national defense. The objectives are



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement