Federal statutes intend that the executive branch provide the weather services necessary to foster safe and efficient use of the nation's airspace. Because this intent is not being fully realized, the executive branch should issue appropriate policy directives and comply with them.
Federal roles and missions for aviation weather services and related research are divided among the FAA; NWS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology (OFCM); and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in accordance with the following key documents:
The first five documents listed above establish legislative requirements and responsibilities for aviation weather services. The executive branch generated the last two documents to establish a process for implementing those requirements. Relevant portions of each of these documents appear in Appendix D (page 74).
Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Title 49), which includes the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (as amended), requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish weather offices, make weather observations, collect and distribute pilot weather reports, generate forecasts, and conduct appropriate science and research projects ''in order to promote safety and efficiency in air navigation to the highest possible degree."1 The Secretary is required to take these actions in addition to weather-related activities performed for other purposes. Furthermore, the Secretary is directed to "avoid duplication of services [with other agencies of the federal government] unless such duplication tends to promote the safety and efficiency of air navigation."
Title 49 directs the FAA Administrator "to make recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for providing meteorological service necessary for the safe and
Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 14
--> 2 Current Roles and Missions Federal statutes intend that the executive branch provide the weather services necessary to foster safe and efficient use of the nation's airspace. Because this intent is not being fully realized, the executive branch should issue appropriate policy directives and comply with them. Federal roles and missions for aviation weather services and related research are divided among the FAA; NWS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology (OFCM); and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in accordance with the following key documents: Organic Act of 1890, as amended, which in its current form establishes the NWS as a civilian agency within the Department of Commerce; Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended, which in its current form assigns responsibilities to federal agencies for a wide range of aviation activities, including aviation weather services; National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended, which in its current form establishes NASA; Department of Commerce Appropriations Act of 1963, which established requirements for summarizing government-wide budgetary items associated with meteorology; Weather Services Modernization Act, Title VII of Public Law 102–567, October 1992, which requires the Secretary of Commerce to certify that the process of modernizing the NWS will not degrade local weather services; Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-62, November 13, 1963, and the Department of Commerce Implementation Plan for Circular A-62, January 9, 1964, which established policy guidelines for federal meteorological services and applied research and development; and Memorandum of Agreement Between the FAA and the NOAA for the Establishment of Working Arrangements for Providing Aviation Weather Service and Meteorological Communications, January 24, 1977. The first five documents listed above establish legislative requirements and responsibilities for aviation weather services. The executive branch generated the last two documents to establish a process for implementing those requirements. Relevant portions of each of these documents appear in Appendix D (page 74). Legislative Requirements Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (Title 49), which includes the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (as amended), requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish weather offices, make weather observations, collect and distribute pilot weather reports, generate forecasts, and conduct appropriate science and research projects ''in order to promote safety and efficiency in air navigation to the highest possible degree."1 The Secretary is required to take these actions in addition to weather-related activities performed for other purposes. Furthermore, the Secretary is directed to "avoid duplication of services [with other agencies of the federal government] unless such duplication tends to promote the safety and efficiency of air navigation." Title 49 directs the FAA Administrator "to make recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce for providing meteorological service necessary for the safe and 1 Emphasis has been added here and in the following quote.
OCR for page 14
--> efficient movement of aircraft in air commerce."2 Title 49 contains additional language that indirectly requires the FAA to take an interest in weather that goes beyond simply identifying what meteorological services are needed by aviation. In particular, Title 49 requires the FAA Administrator to "develop plans for and formulate policy ... to insure the safety of aircraft and the efficient utilization of [the navigable] airspace." Title 49 also directs the FAA Administrator to formulate long-range research and development plans, conduct or supervise research, and develop the systems and procedures needed to enhance aviation safety and efficiency, particularly with regard to the performance of pilots and air traffic controllers. The term "safe and efficient" appears many other times in Title 49, particularly with regard to FAA staffing, airspace usage, and research and development of new systems and procedures. The committee generated the following finding and general recommendation concerning FAA responsibilities for weather services. (The committee's findings and general recommendations appear throughout the report as separate paragraphs in italic text. In addition, the committee's nine major recommendations are numbered and boxed. Appendix A lists all of the committee's findings and recommendations.) Finding: Federal regulations create an implicit responsibility for the FAA to ensure that weather services are available to meet the needs of aviation. Recommendation: The FAA should view meteorology as a significant component of every area of its responsibility in which weather could affect safety or efficiency. Safety issues—and the publicity associated with air crashes and passenger fatalities—often motivate the government to take aggressive action to improve safety. However, Title 49 repeatedly mentions both safety and efficiency as goals that the FAA and the Department of Commerce (i.e., the NWS) should have for the national airspace system and related aviation weather services. For example, Title 49 plainly states that "the Administrator shall develop, modify, test, and evaluate systems, procedures, facilities, and devices ... to meet the needs for safe and efficient navigation and traffic control...." Although increases in efficiency should not come at the expense of safety, Title 49 clearly implies that the FAA should develop new systems and procedures that increase the efficiency of air commerce. Low efficiency creates unnecessary passenger delays, increases costs, and interferes with long-term efforts to improve the financial stability of U.S. air carriers. Recommendation: The FAA should aggressively strive to improve the efficiency of air commerce just as it already strives to improve safety. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended and incorporated into Title 42 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, specifies that NASA's mission includes fundamental research and technology development activities in aeronautical disciplines to improve the safety and efficiency of the U.S. air transportation system. NASA's mission also includes the provision of technical assistance and facility support to other government agencies and the private sector. For example, NASA recently completed a technology development program for airborne windshear detection and avoidance technology. Other ongoing NASA programs are focused on the impact of reduced visibility and cloud ceilings on airport operations, methodologies for designing aircraft with improved icing resistance, and nowcasting volcanic hazards and upper-air winds (Schlickenmaier, 1994). NASA and the FAA use the FAA-NASA Coordinating Committee to facilitate the coordination of research programs of common interest to NASA and the FAA. As part of the ongoing NWS Modernization Program, the NWS is relocating many of its local weather offices and installing new systems such as weather radars and automated observing systems. These changes directly impact the ability of the NWS to provide aviation weather services. In order to ensure that these changes do not degrade local weather services, the U.S. Congress included specific conditions within the Weather Services Modernization Act that the Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Transportation must meet prior to closing weather service field offices or replacing airport weather observers with automated weather observing systems.3 The Department of Commerce Appropriations Act of 1963 established a requirement for the Bureau of the Budget to include in each year's budget presentation a summary of all federal programs for meteorology, including goals and expected costs. This requirement, which has 2 The NWS is part of NOAA, which currently is itself a component of the Department of Commerce. Thus, when discussing the duties and responsibilities of the NWS, some documents refer to the Department of Commerce or NOAA. 3 The Weather Services Modernization Act does not allow the NWS to close or relocate any weather service field office that is located at an airport unless the Secretary of Commerce "in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation ... determines that such action will not result in degradation of service that affects aircraft safety." The act also does not allow the NWS to "commission an automated surface observing system located at an airport unless it is determined, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, that the weather services provided after commissioning will continue to be in full compliance with applicable flight aviation rules promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration."
OCR for page 14
--> been retained in Title 68 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, now applies to the OMB. Finding: Federal responsibilities for ensuring aviation safety and efficiency and for providing aviation weather services are adequately defined in existing legislation. Implementation by the Executive Branch Shortcomings in the implementation of legislative policy by the executive branch are illustrated in the following discussions of (1) OMB Circular A-62 and (2) the current FAA/NOAA memorandum of agreement regarding the provision of aviation weather services. OMB Circular A-62 Circular A-62 and the Department of Commerce Implementation Plan for Circular A-62 were issued on November 13, 1963, and January 9, 1964, respectively, to facilitate compliance with the new legislative requirement to develop a comprehensive, interagency budget presentation for meteorology.4 Circular A-62 and the Department of Commerce Implementation Plan established the OFCM (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology) as a catalyst for interagency coordination with regard to planning and reviewing meteorological services and supporting research across the federal government. The implementation plan also established a high-level federal committee to work with and provide policy guidance to the OFCM and to assist in resolving interagency disputes. The mission of the OFCM is to provide systematic coordination and promote cooperation among federal agencies. However, Circular A-62 and the Department of Commerce Implementation Plan do not authorize the Federal Coordinator to demand interagency cooperation or to direct the operational actions of federal agencies with regard to meteorological services or related research. Instead, the Federal Coordinator relies on the voluntary cooperation of federal agencies (Wright, 1995). In addition, the Federal Coordinator can recommend that OMB reduce funding for specific meteorological projects if it appears that they are not being coordinated with related efforts by other agencies. Circular A-62 made the Department of Commerce responsible for basic meteorological services, but it made user agencies responsible for specialized meteorological services to meet the needs of user groups such as aviation. As defined by Circular A-62, the goal of basic meteorological services was to (1) meet the needs of the general public, (2) protect their lives and property, and (3) make available a common set of processed meteorological data that describes the current and forecast state of the atmosphere. Basic meteorological services did not include generation of weather products to meet the operational needs of specialized user groups. Because it does not include aviation weather services as one of the core responsibilities of the Department of Commerce, Circular A-62 seems to have been inconsistent with sections 310 and 803 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended (see Appendix D, page 76). Circular A-62 remained unchanged and in force until June 1994, when OMB canceled it, apparently without notifying or receiving the concurrence of affected federal agencies and without issuing new guidance in its place. In the absence of such guidance, the OFCM and other federal agencies involved in meteorological services and supporting research are continuing to function in accordance with Circular A-62 to fulfill the relevant requirements of Title 68, which remains in effect. As of August 1995, OMB had not yet determined whether it would replace Circular A-62 with new guidance or whether new guidance, if forthcoming, would resolve the apparent inconsistency between Circular A-62 and federal legislation. FAA/NOAA Memorandum of Agreement The Memorandum of Agreement Between the FAA and the NOAA for the Establishment of Working Arrangements for Providing Aviation Weather Service and Meteorological Communications, January 24, 1977, defines a specific, comprehensive approach by the FAA and NWS for providing aviation weather services. Although the FAA and NWS concur that a new agreement is needed, the 1977 agreement has not been formally rescinded, and the near-term prospects for approving a new agreement remain uncertain. Thus, this report discusses the 1977 agreement rather than the unapproved draft of the proposed new agreement.5 The approach defined by the 1977 agreement involves close cooperation between the FAA and NWS, as indicated by the following elements of the agreement: 4 Circular A-62 was issued by the Bureau of the Budget, the predecessor of the OMB. 5 The initial draft of the 1977 agreement was produced in 1969, but it was not finalized until 1977. The first effort to produce a revised agreement started during the mid-1980s and failed to culminate in a new agreement. Another effort to produce an updated agreement began about 1990. This effort is continuing. The slow pace of completing a new agreement seems to derive primarily from a lack of consensus within the FAA regarding aviation weather policy and the low priority that the FAA assigns to resolving most weather-related issues.
OCR for page 14
--> Each year, the Secretary of Transportation will send a letter to the Secretary of Commerce that defines (1) weather services needed to provide a safe and efficient system of air commerce and (2) aviation weather research and development requirements. The FAA and NOAA will jointly review existing and planned programs at least annually and agree on a program plan to meet the research and development requirements contained in the above letter. The FAA and NOAA will consult with each other regarding all long-range planning for aviation weather services, and they will coordinate all matters having to do with making and reporting weather measurements relevant to aviation. The FAA and NOAA will designate an official from each agency to act as formal liaisons. — The NOAA Special Assistant for Aviation Affairs will report to both the FAA Administrator and the NOAA Administrator. This official will assist in defining operational requirements for aviation weather, coordinating aviation weather activities within the FAA, and evaluating user needs. — A representative of the FAA's research and development activity will work with the NWS to coordinate requirements for aviation weather research and development and help resolve interface problems with FAA and NWS systems. The FAA and NOAA will occupy adjacent quarters at the same airport whenever advantageous. As discussed below, the FAA and NWS no longer execute key elements of the agreement that are directly related to (1) defining aviation weather requirements and (2) interactions between the FAA and the NWS. Defining Aviation Weather Requirements NOAA and the NWS properly view the FAA as the government agency with the expertise and experience to represent the interests of the aviation community. Thus, even though the NWS plays a key role in providing aviation weather services, it has very little direct interaction with the aviation community regarding user requirements. Instead, the NWS relies almost entirely upon the FAA to validate user needs. However, since the memorandum of agreement was signed in 1977, the Secretary of Transportation has never complied with the requirement to advise the Secretary of Commerce regarding the need for aviation weather services and research. This shortcoming may reflect the concern of some former and current FAA officials that stating weather requirements may create an implied obligation to fund additional aviation weather services and related research. The FAA does pass some requirements for aviation weather services and research directly to the NWS on an ad hoc basis. However, the NWS has not always been well served by this approach. Piecemeal generation of requirements is reflected in an aviation weather system that is similarly fragmented and, at times, unable to respond fully to the valid needs of pilots and other users. For example, the NWS now realizes that the FAA did not serve as an effective intermediary between the NWS and aviation weather users with regard to generating performance requirements for the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS).6 Partly as a result of this situation, the NWS has had to augment some ASOS units with human weather observers and develop plans for increasing the capabilities of deployed ASOS units to meet aviation needs. Complying with the procedures established by the 1977 memorandum of agreement for interagency coordination of aviation weather requirements would facilitate development of an integrated approach for meeting the needs of aviation weather users. In addition, passing requirements through the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Commerce, and the NOAA Administrator (as specified by the 1977 agreement) would help ensure that they receive the high-level attention they deserve. Finding: Developing a common understanding of aviation weather requirements between the FAA and NOAA is the critical first step in assessing current aviation weather services and planning improvements. Major Recommendation 1 The FAA should aggressively exercise its responsibility for coordinating user needs and expressing requirements for meteorological services to the NWS.7 Interactions Between the FAA and the NWS The location of the NWS and FAA in different executive departments complicates the process of coordinating their efforts. One of the motivations for transfer- 6 Over 500 ASOS units are now installed across the country. The NWS and FAA anticipated that these units, together with other weather system improvements, would allow the NWS to eliminate human weather observers at many airports. However, as discussed in Chapter 3 (page 25) and Appendix E (page 82), many aviation weather users perceive that replacing human weather observers with automated systems, as they are currently designed and operated, reduces the overall quality of surface weather observations. 7 This is one of the committee's nine major recommendations, all of which are boxed as they appear in the body of the report. The committee's other recommendations expand upon and support these key recommendations.
OCR for page 14
--> ring the NWS from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Commerce in 1940 was to "permit better coordination of government activities relating to aviation" (NWS, 1970). At that time, the Civil Aviation Administration also was located within the Department of Commerce. The organizational proximity of federal weather and aviation agencies was subsequently lost when the NWS was subordinated to NOAA in 1970, and the Civil Aviation Administration evolved into the FAA and was transferred to the Department of Transportation. As a result of the current organizational arrangement, the NWS and FAA must exert a special effort to coordinate their aviation weather activities adequately on both a strategic planning basis and a day-to-day operational basis. The 1977 memorandum of agreement sought to improve coordination between the FAA and NOAA by establishing high-level aviation weather liaisons. However, the position of NOAA Special Assistant for Aviation Affairs, which also reported to the FAA Administrator, was eliminated in 1978, and no position of comparable authority now exists within NOAA, the NWS, or the FAA. Since 1978, the FAA and NWS have worked together to procure several major aviation weather systems. Some of these procurements, such as ASOS, have experienced significant problems. One of the functions of the high-level FAA-NOAA liaisons established in the 1977 agreement was to clarify misunderstandings and increase the probability that new aviation weather systems and procedures developed by NOAA and the FAA would perform as expected in satisfying user needs. Recommendation: The FAA and NWS should reestablish the practice of assigning high-level liaisons who are formally tasked with defining and coordinating aviation weather requirements for research, development, and operations between the FAA and NOAA/NWS. Aviation weather is a specialized area that falls outside the mainstream of general-purpose weather services, and aviation forecasters require special skills and expertise to address the unique requirements of aviation. In order to reach their full potential, aviation forecasters should understand what meteorological information pilots, air traffic controllers, and other aviation weather users need in order to operate safely and efficiently. They should also understand the technology of their users almost as well as they do their own. They should then be able to tailor the weather services they provide to respond to their users' specialized needs. Achieving this level of expertise requires that aviation meteorologists spend enough time with aviation weather users to develop a detailed understanding of—not just a general orientation to—their operational procedures, their operational tempo, their critical parameters, the scope of their missions, and the other sources of information—such as aircraft surveillance radars—that users must integrate with the meteorological information that forecasters provide. In fact, it is axiomatic in some aviation weather communities, particularly within the U.S. military, that aviation meteorologists must maintain close contact with the operational aviation commands that they support. Placing FAA and NOAA (i.e., NWS) offices in adjacent quarters at the same airport, as specified in the 1977 agreement, would have contributed to this goal. However, the committee saw no evidence of close contact between meteorologists and users at the airports it visited, in part because the FAA and NOAA offices were physically separated. For example, the aviation meteorologists at a Weather Forecast Office located at one major airport had never met with the tower or Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) air traffic controllers who were one of their primary customers. The forecasters did occasionally speak with controllers by phone, but the forecasters acknowledged that they did not know the operational utility of the information they provided. In addition, when the committee itself met with the TRACON and tower controllers, it was told that forecasters sometimes reported information that was of limited value because, in the opinion of the controllers, the forecasters did not understand their needs. The NWS Modernization Program will exacerbate this problem by moving many weather service offices away from local airports.8 The FAA's consolidation of Flight Service Stations (FSSs) into new Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSSs), which are typically not collocated with NWS forecast offices, is also in conflict with the intent of the 1977 agreement to establish NOAA and FAA offices in adjacent quarters. In other words, it seems that neither the FAA nor the NWS still embraces the principle that placing FAA operational staff and aviation meteorologists at NWS forecast offices in a position to establish close working relationships is an important goal of the federal aviation weather program. Committee members also detected a lack of interagency communication when it visited an FAA regional administrator and an NWS regional director who were located in the same federal office building and supervised regions that overlapped each other. These two officials 8 The NWS Modernization Plan collocates new weather forecast offices with WSR-88D weather radar sites. The NWS favors locating these radars at sites that will optimize their performance. In general, this results in selecting sites that are not on the property of local airports. Also, property values often encourage the NWS to establish new offices at off-airport sites, which tend to cost less than airport property.
OCR for page 14
--> had never met or spoken on the phone, even though the NWS regional director was responsible for the provision of aviation weather services by dozens of aviation meteorologists assigned to his region. Finding: Routine meetings between FAA and NWS staff could be a valuable tool for improving (1) the practical understanding that aviation forecasters have regarding the needs of air traffic controllers, flight service specialists, and pilots for operational weather information; and (2) the understanding of air traffic controllers and flight service specialists regarding the capabilities, utility, and limitations of aviation weather information. Recommendation: The FAA and NWS should encourage informal interagency meetings between small groups of staff members at all management levels who are involved in providing or using aviation weather information. In addition, the NWS should enable aviation forecasters to spend duty time routinely in the environments of the aviation weather users that they support. Effectiveness of Implementing Documents Although federal legislation accepts responsibility for the provision of aviation weather services, relevant executive branch policy has been rescinded without replacement (as in the case of OMB Circular A-62), or it is ineffective because the FAA and NOAA do not comply with key elements of the policy (as in the case of the 1977 memorandum of agreement between the FAA and NOAA). Long delays in issuing new policy and noncompliance with existing policy indicate a lack of effective high-level agency leadership and attention within the FAA and NOAA regarding aviation weather services. This lack of effective high-level leadership means that mid-level managers must rely on their own resourcefulness and initiative to provide needed services. Finding: The manner in which the federal aviation weather system is managed fosters the development of de facto policies and procedures that limit overall system safety and efficiency. Recommendation: The OMB, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and other responsible federal agencies should expeditiously issue and implement updated or expanded policy directives to more fully comply with the intent of federal legislation regarding the provision of aviation weather services. Federal Aviation Regulations FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations), which are established by the FAA, govern the manufacturing, certification, inspection, and operation of aircraft registered in the United States. Many FARs deal specifically with weather. The following example illustrates the impact that weather-related FARs can have on aviation efficiency. The FARs generally require U.S. carriers to designate an alternate airport (and carry enough fuel to get there with a specified margin) if the weather forecast specifies a ceiling below 2,000 feet or visibility of less than 3 miles during a time period of 1 hour before or after the expected arrival time at the primary destination (FAR sections 121.619 and 135.223). Australian air carriers, on the other hand, operate under Australian regulations, which require designating an alternate destination airport if the forecast for the primary destination includes a ceiling below 800 feet or visibility of less than 2 miles within 30 minutes before or after the flight arrival time. Also, Australian air carriers do not need to designate an alternate airport if the terminal forecast predicts that conditions of low visibility or ceiling will be temporary and arriving aircraft will have sufficient fuel to hold at the primary destination for at least 30 minutes. U.S. carriers do not have this option. The difference in rules has a significant impact on the economic efficiency and competitiveness of U.S. carriers. For example, United Airlines and Quantas operate daily flights between Los Angeles and Sydney that depart within minutes of each other. United is required to comply with U.S. FARs, while Quantas operates in accordance with Australian regulations. Aircraft flying this route generally take off with a maximum load of passengers, freight, and fuel, and carrying extra fuel for an alternate destination is not always practical. In 1993, due to the differences in regulations concerning the use of alternate destination airports and the resulting fuel requirements, four United Airlines flights diverted to Brisbane or Nandi, while the matching Quantas flights flew directly into Sydney. Each of these diversions increased operational costs by a minimum of $30,000. In 1992, during one such diversion to Nandi, the United Airlines flight crew was unable to continue the flight to Sydney because of crew rest regulations. This diversion cost United Airlines $300,000 because it had to charter a Quantas aircraft for one leg of the return flight to fill in for the United Airlines aircraft that was delayed in Nandi. FARs also reduce efficiency by sometimes requiring that flight plans include alternate airports, even if the forecast does not predict any weather conditions that would require diversion from the primary destination. For instance, minimum acceptable cloud ceiling for an instrument approach may be 200 feet at a particular airport, yet
OCR for page 14
--> the FARs may require that flight plans specify an alternate destination unless the forecast ceiling is higher than 2,000 feet. The state of the art of aircraft communications, navigation, air traffic control, and aviation weather systems has advanced a great deal since many FARs were last revised. In some cases, these advances may make it possible to relax some weather-related restrictions on aviation operations without degrading safety. As noted in the example above, Australia has operational experience with flight regulations that are less restrictive than those of the United States. It may be instructive for the FAA to formally assess the impact of such regulations on the safety and efficiency of Australian aviation in comparison to the safety and efficiency of U.S. aviation. Recommendation: The FAA should examine selected weather-related FARs and undertake rulemaking to incorporate appropriate modifications to enhance efficiency as well as safety. Establishing an Air Traffic Services Corporation The FAA views the aviation weather services that it provides as a subset of air traffic services. Thus, the current legislative and executive branch framework that defines how aviation weather services and research are funded and provided would be altered if the federal government establishes a private or federal corporation to provide air traffic services. Given the continuing interest in proposals for establishing such a corporation, the committee examined the potential impact of creating an air traffic services corporation on the provision of federal aviation weather services and related research. The committee used the Air Traffic Control Corporation Study (DOT, 1994) as a basis for this examination because it is recent, it includes consideration of other related studies during the past several years, and its participants included senior officials within the Department of Transportation who will presumably play a key role in generating executive-branch proposals for restructuring the FAA. The study is summarized in the accompanying box. The committee takes no position on the overall merit of establishing a private or federal corporation to take over some or all of the FAA's functions. However, if FAA responsibilities for day-to-day operations, system acquisition, research, regulation, and certification were to be split between a residual FAA and a new air traffic services corporation, it might become more difficult for a single organization or official to provide the kind of strong leadership that should be a key element of future efforts to improve aviation weather services and research. The Air Traffic Control Corporation Study asserts that ''a government [air traffic services] corporation can be structured to be financially self-sufficient" (i.e., it can operate without appropriated funds from the general treasury) and that "businesslike financial practices can reduce the financial burden on both users and the general taxpayer." The study goes on to recommend that such a corporation should establish user fees for commercial operators that would be offset by corresponding cuts in aviation taxes for these users. (General aviation and "public users" would permanently be exempted from paying user fees. although general aviation aircraft would remain subject to existing aviation fuel taxes.) If this funding scheme is implemented, then user fees paid by commercial air carriers would be the primary source of funds for the air traffic services corporation. Establishing an air traffic services corporation, as described above, could have a negative impact on funding for basic research in aviation weather. Like the federal government, U.S. air carriers are under severe financial pressure, and they are likely to resist increasing their financial contributions to the provision of air traffic services. Because basic research is farther removed from operational systems than applied research and technology development, it is often the first area to be cut when operational agencies face budgetary constraints. Aviation weather research already faces this situation within the The Air Traffic Control Corporation Study Many studies have examined whether to alter the basic structure of the FAA. One of the most recent studies began in 1993 when the Secretary of Transportation established an ad hoc committee to study the benefits of organizationally restructuring the air traffic control system. This committee consisted of employees of federal agencies and government corporations, including Department of Transportation assistant secretaries, the FAA Administrator, and other high-level government officials. The resulting report, the Air Traffic Control Corporation Study (DOT, 1994), included a renew of 13 other study reports produced since 1985 that have examined the operation of the FAA. Seven of the 13, including the report produced by Vice President Gore's National Performance Review, recommended establishing a government corporation to provide some or all of the services currently provided by the FAA. The Air Traffic Control Corporation Study concurs with this approach by recommending the formation of a not-for-profit U.S. government corporation, the U.S. Air Traffic Services Corporation, to "operate, maintain, and modernize" the air traffic control system.
OCR for page 14
--> FAA and NOAA and, as research funding has decreased over the last few years, aviation weather research laboratories have had to tie themselves more closely to development programs for operational systems. Historically, basic research is the foundation upon which future development programs are based, and reductions in basic research tend to degrade the ability to develop new operational systems. The Air Traffic Control Corporation Study reinforces the perception that the FAA does not adequately recognize the importance of weather to aviation safety and efficiency. For example, the 200-page report does not address weather-related issues associated with restructuring the FAA. In particular, the chapter on aviation safety discusses system capacity; separation of aircraft from each other; regulatory practices; and aircraft manufacturing, certification, and maintenance; however, it does not address aviation weather services. Establishing an air traffic services corporation is not necessarily inconsistent with the committee's recommendation for improving aviation weather services. However, it is important to consider aviation weather services and research as corporatization proposals are being structured and evaluated, rather than as they are being implemented. Recommendation: The FAA should assess how proposals to establish a private or federal air traffic services corporation would impact aviation weather services and related research. This report contains many recommendations for the FAA to improve aviation weather services and research. In general, implementation of these recommendations can proceed in parallel with the process of deciding whether to establish an air traffic services corporation. For example, as elaborated upon in Chapter 6, this report recommends that the FAA exert strong leadership in the planning and providing of aviation weather services. Implementation of this recommendation should be initiated immediately, even if the government anticipates establishing a federal or private air traffic services corporation. Enabling legislation for a new corporation, if one is established, should support this recommendation by focusing responsibility for aviation weather within one organization (i.e., either the new corporation or the residual FAA) and by clearly defining how the new corporation and the residual FAA would provide aviation weather services and conduct related research. Recommendation: The FAA should expeditiously improve aviation weather services rather than delay action while the federal government decides whether to establish an air traffic services corporation to provide some or all of the functions currently provided by the FAA. References Department of Commerce Appropriations Act of 1963, as amended and incorporated into Title 68 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. DOT (Department of Transportation). 1994. Air Traffic Control Corporation Study—Report of the Executive Oversight Committee to the Department of Transportation. Washington, D.C.: DOT. Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended and incorporated into Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Memorandum of Agreement Between the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the Establishment of Working Arrangements for Providing Aviation Weather Service and Meteorological Communications, January 24, 1977. National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended and incorporated into Title 42 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. NWS (National Weather Service). 1970. Message of President Roosevelt Regarding Reorganization Plan 4, June 30, 1940, in the National Weather Service Operations Manual. Washington, D.C.: NWS. OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Circular A-62, November 13, 1963, and Department of Commerce Implementation Plan for Circular A-62, January 9, 1964. Organic Act of 1890, as amended and incorporated into Title 15 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Schlickenmaier, H. 1994. NASA Research and Technology Related to Aviation Weather. Presented to the National Aviation Weather Services Committee, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. October 18, 1994. Weather Services Modernization Act, Public Law 102–567, Title VII, October 1992. Wright, J. 1995. Personal communication from Julian M. Wright, Jr., Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, to Alan Angleman, May 19, 1995.