Airports are highly regulated enterprises, and those regulations can place unfair or unnecessary burdens on airports. What’s worse, unfunded mandates only compound current pressures. Competitive airports require greater flexibility.
Safety and security challenges are constantly changing, especially as threats become more complex. Airports must continually work to ensure the safety and security of the traveling public. Airports are also responsible stewards of the environment, including noise concerns and deicing processes. An airport’s ability to maintain safety, security, and environmental challenges promotes efficient airport operations and reduced flight delays.
Aircraft noise is a particularly complicated topic that involves and impacts numerous stakeholders, including aircraft manufacturers, the airlines, the regulators like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airports, and their surrounding communities. Airports serve as the voice of the community in helping strike the right balance between the concerns of the local community and the airport’s role as an economic engine for its region.
Aircraft noise continues to challenge the way in which airports engage with their communities. Airports are continually striving to do their part to be good partners in their communities by promoting sustainability and environmentally responsible practices, including noise management.
The introduction of the commercial jet in the 1960’s was the first time the airport industry faced a major challenge with aircraft noise. Current noise policy in the United States was developed in the 1970s, but so much has changed in the industry since then. The continuous work to leverage mitigation tools – like sound insulation programs, land acquisition, FAA and ICAO regulations, and advancements in technology that resulted in quieter planes – by the airport industry had allowed noise to take a backseat to other industry challenges.
There have been some recent changes that have brought aircraft noise back to the forefront of the public’s attention. These changes relate to an increase in aviation traffic, the modernization of the U.S. airspace through the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), and other changes in air traffic patterns such as reconfiguring runways.
ACI-NA will continue to work with our airport members, airlines, and regulators to develop effective solutions to mitigating aircraft noise.
Airports are complex intermodal transportation hubs where ground transportation—both roads and transit—meets air transportation. Airport operators—in collaboration with key partners including the FAA, Transport Canada, commercial airlines, general and business aviation operators, ground service providers, and state and local transportation officials—work diligently every day to ensure that passengers and shipments make these transfers safely, efficiently, and with minimal disruption.
For decades, safety—together with security—has been the top priority of U.S. and Canadian airport operators. Working closely with our regulators on both sides of the border—the FAA and Transport Canada, respectively—our airport members have worked hard to make U.S. and Canadian airports the safest in the world. However, this work is never complete and requires ongoing dedication to continuously monitor emerging safety hazards, identify the risks associated with them, and mitigate those risks effectively.
At ACI-NA we recognize that our airport operators, those closest to the operation, are best equipped to identify the hazards and risks at their airports and work with their stakeholders—regulators, airlines, other flight operators, and ground handlers—to maintain and improve our impressive safety record.
Being Ready for Disruptive Events
Whether it’s a hurricane, blizzard, air traffic disruption, or simply a busy holiday weekend, ACI-NA works to help our member airports prepare for and effectively respond to events that can disrupt or delay travelers at our airport. These efforts involve substantial advance coordination with our airline and flight operator partners, the FAA, the TSA, and CBP. During events themselves, ACI-NA serves as a conduit for critical airport operational and facility information between our members, the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center, and airline system operations centers.
Over the past decade, both the FAA and NavCanada have been working to modernize the U.S. and Canadian national air transportation systems through a combination of ground-based, satellite-based, and aircraft based capabilities to improve system efficiency and capacity and reduce environmental impacts. These capabilities include performance based navigation procedures, digital data communications, enhanced airside surface management, and enhanced multiple runway operations and more.
At ACI-NA, we have advocated for airport operators to be at the table from the inception to implementation, knowing that NextGen begins and ends at airports. We’ve also recognized the special role that airport operators play with their communities and have strongly urged the FAA and flight operators to recognize how NextGen capabilities like performance based navigation procedures can have unintended consequences in terms of noise and overflight impacts on local communities and need to be planned, designed, and refined carefully to balance their operational and safety benefits with their potential community impacts.
Addressing New Technologies
Drones, commercial spacecraft, smart-phone enabled ride and car sharing services, and automated ground vehicles are just a few of the new technologies and business models to which airport operators have had to adapt in the last half decade. These technologies offer great opportunities to airport operators, but also bring a myriad of new issues to the forefront. For example, airport operators see unmanned aircraft systems—or drones—as incredibly useful tools for airport surveillance, infrastructure inspections, aerial photography & surveys, and emergency response & situational awareness. At the same time, airport operators are extremely concerned about the risks drones operating in the vicinity of airports pose to manned aviation, whether through intended criminal or terrorist actions or unintended flights too close to airports or aircraft. ACI-NA seeks to engage regulators, lawmakers, and industry collectively to develop appropriate operational frameworks that ensure safe and effective integration of these new technologies into the airport environment.
In recent years, there has been a major push in Washington to reform the ways we control our national airspace. We can’t modernize anything in the sky until we seriously address our outdated infrastructure on the ground. The airlines argue that ATC reform is about efficiency. But any gains in efficiency through ATC reform will be for naught unless we address the inefficiencies and capacity constraints of outdated infrastructure on the ground.