Technology: Share the Air

I have to admit I wasn't aware the extent to which commercial air traffic shares the sky with military air traffic — and how long ago those lanes in the sky were laid out. But Scott McCartney, a pilot himself, knows all about it.

What is amazing is how much of a difference it made when two air corridors were opened in military airspace for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At first I thought the big question would be, Can we do that sort of sharing more regularly?

But then I realized that using military airspace to put more planes into the air doesn't necessarily mean that ground operations can handle the increase in air traffic.

That's because of the shortage of both runways and gates.

For example, if you were to suddenly expand a one-lane highway to a four-lane expressway, you wouldn't be able to get to where you were going any faster if you still had a limited number of off-ramps.

If you put a plane into the air, you have to have a place for it to land.

While the ultimate solution to the air lanes squeeze is America's adoption of a satellite navigation system for the airlines to replace our current obsolete air traffic control network, plus more runways and gates, that's not going to happen anytime soon simply because of the immense cost.

Part of the cost problem is that the large network carriers shoulder the cost of most of the system, while the small carriers are shirking their share. Ultimately it's the flier who picks up the charges, but right now the fliers flying the big carriers are footing more of the bill than fliers flying air taxis and charter airlines. The FAA needs to equalize that.

The FAA — and Congress — also need to make our air traffic control system a bigger priority.

Do you think the government ought to raise airline fees to accelerate upgrade and expansion of our airports and air traffic control system?

Airline Futurist • Miami • www.amadeus.com

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