FedEx pushes for overhaul in air traffic control

by Canadian Shipper

FedEx Express is issuing four challenges to the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to radically overhaul air traffic control operations in the United States.

Calling for an “outcome perspective” rather than a “technology perspective,” Donald O. Barber, senior vice president of air operations, FedEx Express, challenged the aviation industry to change the way the air traffic control system is managed.

“The industry is compromising its operational goals and technological capabilities to fit existing processes. Operational outcome standards such as `time-to-touchdown’ and `time-to-gate’ are the only reliable, unambiguous and unchangeable measurements for an entire system. Only standards like these will force the system to safely use all of the capacity that is available, whether we have new runways or not,” said Barber.

Barber is seeking to establish an industry-wide, FAA-sponsored competition to build the next generation of integrated air traffic control systems, making Memphis International Airport, the FedEx hub, the leading test site for a comprehensive demonstration of all the proposed solutions.

Barber issued the challenges as the keynote speaker for the Air Traffic Control Modernization Forum, a day-long event hosted by FedEx Express, the FAA, and the Cargo Airlines Association. Technology demonstrations sponsored by the FAA and FedEx Express featured ground and cockpit systems, including ADS-B, GPS Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), cockpit Moving Map and other technologies.

“Technology is not the barrier to air traffic modernization. Proven technology that will improve safety while increasing capacity already exists. The problem is that, to date, far too much attention has been focused on a particular hardware suite that either automates or supplements existing systems. The result is operational short-sightedness that has us settling for incremental progress,” said Barber.

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