Innovation: Antique Air

America’s air-traffic control system lags behind systems already rolled out in other parts of the world. This summer’s flight delays have demonstrated all too clearly that our system is too slow to handle today’s volume.

That’s the storyline of a September 28 article in The Wall Street Journal, which also observes that what’s limiting the on-time reliability of America’s airlines isn’t so much lack of runways as it is lack of airspace.

As the article’s authors indicate, our air-traffic control system is so antiquated that even under perfectly beautiful blue skies at points of takeoff and landing, and everywhere in between, airlines are experiencing massive delays on the ground.

The rebound in air traffic in recent years is stressing a slow system beyond its capacity to handle today’s airborne volume. In fact, according to a report by the Transportation Department’s inspector general, almost one-quarter of domestic flights were delayed, cancelled, or diverted last year, reaching the highest level since the peak year of 2000.

The solution seems to be a satellite-based navigation system that would be less reliant on slower and less accurate radar technology, allowing planes to fan out on different routes on takeoff and also to fly closer as they converge at airports.

The sticking point is — you guessed it! — federal funding.

Estimates are that to replace our antique air system with a Next Generation Air Transportation System by 2025 will cost upwards of $22 billion.

Where I come from, that’s real money.

Airline Futurist • Miami • www.amadeus.comRB