Message from Great Lakes Regional Administrator Barry Cooper
In each of these quarterly newsletters, I’ve written messages pertaining to significant things happening in aviation and in FAA’s aviation-related work. For the most part, I’ve highlighted technical initiatives related to things like the Next Generation Transportation System (NextGen), Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or aircraft certification. That’s to be expected, I suppose, because aviation, and the FAA’s work, is largely technical in nature. However, the FAA also has a focus on some things that might be considered less technical in nature, and I want to take a moment to highlight one of those things.
The impact of aviation activity on communities surrounding airports has decreased substantially in the past few decades, primarily due to the manufacture of quieter aircraft and the phase-out of louder aircraft from the active fleet. At the same time, however, airports in many locations are neighbors to communities whose residents are more concerned about aviation-related environmental issues than ever before.
The FAA recently updated and published its “Community Involvement Manual” to serve as a guide for our agency’s employees on effective engagement with communities in conjunction with the execution of various projects involving airfield infrastructure and/or the airspace and airways serving our nation’s airports. The Community Involvement Manual contains agency best practices for effective community engagement and is intended to be a resource to employees within our agency who have community engagement responsibilities.
While our agency embraces all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including community engagement, when we execute projects with NEPA requirements, the Community Involvement Manual goes beyond our formal NEPA requirements and encourages our FAA offices to more proactively engage with communities near airports when doing work that could have real or perceived impacts on surrounding communities. I applaud my agency’s efforts to take this proactive step and to actively increase its community engagement efforts when circumstances dictate.
In today’s world, it’s probably safe to say that most people recognize and acknowledge the contributions that our nation’s airports make to our economy and our 21st century way of life. However, a challenge that most airports face is to safely and efficiently provide critical aviation services while at the same time being the best neighbor possible to their neighboring communities. Here in the Great Lakes Region, I have witnessed, firsthand, the efforts of airport operators from eastern Ohio to western North and South Dakota to be both good airports and good neighbors. The FAA, likewise, has a similar challenge, and we are working hard to not just maintain but to improve our efforts to contribute to that “good neighbor” policy while we manage and improve the National Airspace System.
Michigan Association of Airport Executives Conference - February 21-23 - East Lansing, MI
Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium - Minot, North Dakota - March 5-7
Data Comm Now at Chicago O'Hare, Midway
The FAA is now helping to reduce or eliminate one source of delay at Chicago O’Hare and Midway through the use of Data Communications (Data Comm), part of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization. Data Comm will help reduce delays by making pilot-controller communications shorter and more accurate, which could help keep a plane in the departure line and on schedule. It is now operational at both of Chicago’s major airports.
Data Comm is expected to save operators more than $10 billion over the 30-year life cycle of the program and save the FAA about $1 billion in future operating costs.
FAA Evaluates Drone Detection Systems
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) that enter the protected airspace around airports can pose a serious threat to manned aviation safety. The FAA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are conducting drone-detection research with state and local officials, and academia, to evaluate new technologies for detecting unmanned aircraft near airports. Recent field-testing at Denver International Airport was a major milestone in the development of minimum operational performance standards for drone detection at major airport and critical infrastructure locations.