GSP Leads Efforts to Hire South Carolina Veterans

Independence Day is more than fireworks and cookouts.  It’s a special day we celebrate liberty and those who have helped secure the freedom we cherish today.

Honoring our veterans is a top priority for the airport industry.  That’s why ACI-NA partnered with Edge4Vets in 2014 with the shared goal of connecting America’s – and now Canada’s – veterans with airports across the country to place them in careers that utilize the valuable skills they learned while serving in the military.

Earlier this year, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) collaborated with Edge4Vets and the Upstate Warrior Solution to host a workshop for the region’s veterans.

“We are proud to bring Edge4Vets to South Carolina,” said Dave Edwards, GSP’s president and CEO. “This will be a good opportunity for Upstate employers to identify talent while mentoring veterans transitioning into the workforce or those looking for new opportunities.”

Several companies participated in the workshop, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, United Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, airport concessionaires and Clemson University.

“Many veterans have valuable skills that are beneficial to employers, but they sometimes have difficulty selling themselves,” said Tom Murphy, Edge4Vets’ founder. “People serving in the military learn to work as a team and they sometimes don’t think in terms of their individual accomplishments and skillsets. Some also become so accustomed to using the language and lingo used in the military that civilian employers might not understand what they are saying. These slight adjustments can make a difference in a veteran landing a job and getting on a desirable career path.”

Get Involved

Is your airport interested in becoming an Edge4Vets partner? Airports across North America are partnering with Edge4Vets and ACI-NA to help connect veterans to aviation careers. Current participants include GSP, LAX, HOU, MIA, JFK, CVG, and more.

Contact Tom Murphy to learn more about hosting a workshop in your community. Edge4Vets is offered by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. Learn more here.

LAX CEO: We Need to Bring the Passenger Facility Charge Back to its Original Buying Power

Last week, Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint addressed the Washington Aero Club at a lunch event in Washington, D.C. In her speech, Flint described Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) current $14 billion investment project and how it will help to relieve congestion and improve the LAX travel experience for passengers.

She also discussed how airports across the country are using technology to improve efficiency and ease long lines.

Finally, she urged Congress to return the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power by updating it to be $8.50. She noted that it’s been two decades since the PFC was updated and that it’s well overdue that we modernize it to keep up with inflation.

Excerpts from her speech are below.  Her full remarks are available here.

Flint on the need to modernize the PFC:

A new level of investment in infrastructure is needed and for airports this can be real by bringing the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power.

“It is time. It has been two decades that the PFC has been unchanged even though there have been 26 models of the iPod, which was released the same year. It has been so long that the styles have even come back – parachute pants and tracksuits are back in again.

The ask is to increase the PFC from $4.50 to $8.50 and index it for inflation in the future. That will make a difference for airports of all sizes – large, medium, and small.”

Flint on LAX’s infrastructure projects:

We are making a $14 billion investment in an Automated People Mover train system, roadways, a Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility that will combine the 20 separate facilities that burden our neighborhoods and roadways, a connection to regional rail, and modernizing each terminal.

“And we are beginning the environmental review to improve the airfield, build a new concourse off of Terminal 1, and a new Terminal 9, which requires billions of additional dollars.”

Flint on airports improving efficiency through biometrics:

Back to my 16 year old and her airport expectations. For her, wifi and cellular are like air – as they have become for all of us. Her face is everything.

“I am talking about biometric aircraft boarding gates, self-baggage drop, TSA and CBP screening – all biometrically enabled at LAX today. While privacy and data security must have high bars, the efficiency of biometrics is astounding. We boarded an A380 using biometric facial boarding in 20 minutes.”

Flint on the future of the airport industry:

Airport by airport, working with our partners in airlines and throughout the industry, we need to be excited, energetic and chase the next evolution. We need to push for our airports to be more innovative, sustainable, to be stewards for local communities, to bring the joy and certainty back to air travel, and together get the funding to invest and let our industry shine. At Los Angeles World Airports our vision is Gold Standard Airports … Delivered.  The U.S. deserves that vision for each and every one of our airports.”

Infrastructure Week 2019: 20th Century Airports in a 21st Century World

Today marks the official start to Infrastructure Week 2019, the long-celebrated week each year when the infrastructure community comes together and engages in a broad conversation about the importance of modern infrastructure.  For us, every week is Infrastructure Week (we’re not the first ones to make that joke and we won’t be the last…), but we’re proud to join in and represent airports in such an important dialogue this week.

As part of our participation in Infrastructure Week, ACI-NA will continue to amplify our important message about the need to invest in America’s aging airports.  Beginning today, passengers in airports will have the opportunity to hear directly from ACI-NA on the benefits of an improved and modernized airport system.  Watch by clicking below.

We couldn’t think of a better way to get our message in front of those who stand to benefit the most from the improved passenger experience, increased airline competition and lower airfares, and enhanced safety and security that will come when we meet the nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs of America’s airports over the next five years.

We are proud to count CNN Airport Network as a valued ACI-NA member and an active participant in our Beyond the Runway Coalition.  CNN Airport Network’s tremendous support for our industry is greatly appreciated as we ramp up our efforts to engage in a broad conversation about the importance of modern airports to local communities.

For the latest on Infrastructure Week, visit the Centerlines NOW blog or following along on social media using #InfrastructureWeek #BuildForTomorrow.

drone flying through orange sky

Protecting Airport Airspace

AIRPORTS CONFRONT DRONES WITH SAFETY AND SECURITY TOP OF MIND

By Sandy Smith

One of the last things a pilot on approach to a busy airport wants to worry about is an errant drone colliding with his or her aircraft. Unfortunately, as the world saw in December and January, this is exactly what happened in the airspace near London Gatwick and Newark Liberty International airports. The incident at Gatwick, reported to involve multiple drones operating over a 3-day period between December 19 to 21, resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations and well over 100,000 passenger disruptions during the very busy holiday travel season. The incident at Newark, although less disruptive, was reported by pilots to involve a drone flying “20-30 feet” away from an airliner and forced air traffic controllers to divert air traffic to other runways at the airport until the FAA was confident the drone no longer posed a threat to air safety.

Both events highlight the safety and operational impact unauthorized flights of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) on or near airports can pose.

Airports are an obvious choice for a close encounter with an untrained drone operator who “looks for what appears to be a large, wide-open space to fly their drone that happens to be near an airport,” said Scott Brockman, President and CEO of the Memphis/Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA). Complicating the issue: “The speed at which drones and other technology is advancing and the ability of the aviation system to truly adapt. It’s coming. Are we ready for it?”

The answer to that question remains somewhat unclear. Still, some airports are taking a dual leadership role in making sure that protocols are developed and in exploring the many benefits of drones.

“It’s frustrating to see these near-misses and know there is potential for an awful accident,” said Marily Mora, President and CEO of Reno Airport Authority and a member of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee. “They have so much potential to help in airports that we don’t want to see the progress stopped.”

CONCERNS, CLOSE CALLS

As the technology improves and the price point declines, UAS offer potential for airports. But they offer that same potential for users outside the airport, threatening control of airspace.

ACI-NA member airports have been proactive on the issue. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hosted a winter working session that included the FAA, FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, state police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and others. The PANYNJ issued a statement about the event:

“We are committed to keeping Port Authority airports at the forefront of protection and technology. Federal law empowers federal officials to respond to drone activity. The Port Authority hosted a working session at its World Trade Center headquarters to review and enhance protocols for the rapid detection and interdiction of drones…For security reasons, we cannot discuss specifics. We are committed to continuing our collaboration with the FAA and federal and state law enforcement partners to protect against any and all drone threats to the maximum extent possible.”

The FAA requires pilots that operate near airports use the FAA’s UAS Data Exchange – Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system to identify their craft and UAS operations. One major problem: “The majority of people who use that system are the responsible pilots,” said Thomas Mackie, Aviation Practice Leader and Vice President at Woolpert. “There’s a lot of work to be done to help airports and air traffic organizations, for us in aviation to educate, and for the community to communicate properly back to the airports when flying.”

“It’s frustrating to see these near-misses and know there is potential for an awful accident… They have so much potential to help in airports that we don’t want to see the progress stopped.”

– Marily Mora, FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee

It also means that all players – airports, airlines, air traffic control and the government – get on the same page, Brockman said. “The biggest issue is one that’s probably the most difficult to solve: the identification and acceptance of the sharing of information and the blending of technology across the various industry groups. Right now, everyone operates in a very proprietary way, but in order to truly integrate and manage drones in a safe way, we have to find a way to safely share certain information.”

Brockman believes the solution is best tackled in small bites rather than “the whole enchilada,” which he fears will slow down evaluation, analysis, and implementation. “When you get the ruling that says, ‘That test was a failure, therefore, we’ve got to take a step back and re-evaluate which puts us further behind as technology continues to advance.”

Reno-Tahoe was one of the first seven airports to become part of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system and accounted for about a fourth of the initial approvals, Mora said. She points to the local general aviation airport, the Reno-Tahoe owned Reno-Stead Airport, where NASA has been conducting UAS testing to develop protocols for the integration of drones with manned aircraft. The City of Reno, and Flirtey, a Reno-based UAS company, were selected in May 2018 as one of 10 projects for the USDOT’s UAS integration Pilot Program. More recently, on Jan. 14, 2019, the Nevada UAS Test Site’s Smart Silver State Project was named one of the three projects to mature technologies for unmanned aircraft traffic management.

POTENTIAL FOR GOOD

It is clear that drone technology is coming, and airports must be a participant in driving how drones impact the airspace in the community. That said, airports see positive benefits in their own operations. Woolpert, for instance, uses drones as “another layer of our remote sensing capabilities,” said Mackie. That includes construction site monitoring, aerial photography, pavement and structural assessments, wetland delineation and environmental applications.

Woolpert also advises its airport clients on integration efforts, ranging from regulatory and UAS technology to public outreach and awareness.

Perhaps nowhere is the potential for drone technology more exemplified than at Woolpert client Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia. “They have sections of fence that are in the swamp and are primarily accessible in waders or via boat. Within five minutes of us flying an inaccessible perimeter fence line and showing what we could do, we identified trees that had recently fallen and taken out a section of fence,” Mackie said. “You can’t hire enough people to do this efficiently.”

As one of nine lead participants in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, MSCAA landed approval to test drones at Memphis International Airport for checking the perimeter fence security. It helped that the airport knew the topography of the airfield, what the fence looks like and how it should be maintained. The idea is to input the GPS so that the drone can recognize changes to the fence lines. Brockman sees a future of nesting stations, where a battery of drones can recharge and download information before returning to scan the perimeter, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

When the drone encounters a taxiway or runway, “it will stop and communicate with the tower independently to get approval to cross that area,” Brockman said. If the drone detects an anomaly in the perimeter, it will communicate that personnel need to be dispatched.

The saving of staff time would be enormous, Brockman said, especially if implemented at airports around the world – and the possibility for human error would be removed. It is not a perfect system – not yet at least. “If the battery life and distance can be improved, it will be a phenomenal benefit to aviation by being able to do this,” Brockman said.

Memphis’ tenant FedEx also is participating in the tests using drones to inspect aircraft. Brockman said the drone could be programmed with the manufacturer’s specifications for that exact plane. “It knows every rivet, every protrusion, every light.”

This inspection would not replace the pilot and mechanic inspections, but rather supplement or enhance human inspection.

“Right now, everyone operates in a very proprietary way, but in order to truly integrate and manage drones in a safe way, we have to find a way to safely share certain information.”

– Scott Brockman, Memphis/Shelby County Airport Authority

Airports also could use drones in ways similar to large construction projects. “Instead of sending people up on roofs to inspect buildings and facilities, there are several design and engineering construction companies that are using drones to do so,” said Dean Schultz, Reno’s Chief Operating Officer. “They are much more efficient and gathering a lot more data in a short amount of time. We wouldn’t want to miss out on that opportunity as well. Soon, we could have a drone doing the runway inspection.”

With the pace of adoption and improvements of technology, the sky is the literal limit. “There is testing going on every day at airports,” Schultz said. “It’s little by little, following the crawl, walk, run method. We’re in the crawl stage, but it won’t be long before we’re walking and running.”

FUTURE FOCUSED

Mackie anticipates a day when the general public will gain more of an understanding of the potential impact and the importance of abiding by the regulations. Improvement in sense-and-avoid technologies and the UTM also are being developed.

As improved drones and safety mechanisms merge, “that’s going to allow a large variety of UAS applications while helping mitigate the safety concerns with midair collisions and property damage,” Mackie says. “Every year we see better and better safety mechanisms on the aircraft themselves. You’ll see another adjustment to our federal regulation in the U.S., which will ease the ability for more UAS operations over people, over public areas.”

It may be just in time, because drone technology itself continues to march forward and new uses will continue to be adapted, Brockman believes. “At some point, there will be a cost-effective drone that will be able to carry a payload of more than a couple of pounds for longer than 10-15 minutes. When that occurs, the pressure to put some of those things into society without a real good plan to integrate them safely and effectively is really a concern at least for me.”

Brockman believes within the next decade, there will be unmanned, low-altitude personal aircraft that can ferry passengers downtown – and he believes airports can play a role in that. “Business models will operate differently than they do now. How are you going to monetize your airport if you lose parking, because of autonomous vehicles? I see a day when things are so automated that you’ll need to find a new way to monetize operations. You’ll still need miles of runway, terminals to get people on the plane, but how much of this other stuff are you going to need? That will be determined over time.”

“There is testing going on every day at airports… It’s little by little, following the crawl, walk, run method. We’re in the crawl stage, but it won’t be long before we’re walking and running.”

– Dean Schultz, Reno Airport Authority

If there has been one good thing to come out of the recent UAS incidents at Gatwick and Newark, it is an increased awareness, Mora believes. “In both cases, to have operational considerations and delays because of drones, it’s something we don’t want to see happen. It’s going to step up the cry for airport operators to get the drone detection technology that the FAA is working on. This will just speed up the conversation and the need for all of that.” <

TRANSPORT CANADA: TIGHTER RULES

Transport Canada is implementing new rules for drone use on June 1, which will require a certificate for non-commercial drone pilots. These pilots must pass an online examination to receive a pilot certificate. As of that date, they will need to have their pilot certificate and proof of registration readily available.

Other changes coming June 1 raise the altitude at which drones can fly – from 300 to 400 feet in the air. Rules requiring a distance from an airport – 5.6 km (3 miles) – remain the same.

Canada’s Airport Capital Assistance Program Needs Reform – Urgently

By Chris Phelan, Vice President, Industry and Government Affairs, Canadian Airports Council

The Canadian Airports Council has joined with several other Canadian associations that represent local and regional airports to send a national, united message to the government of Canada: Reform the Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP) to provide more funding and modern criteria that better matches needs and realities of small airport capital or run the risk of air services declining for Canadians living in small communities.

ACAP was created in 1994 as a companion to the National Airports Policy (NAP), which handed over the operations of the majority of airports from the federal government to private sector airport authorities or in the case of most small airports, local interests. ACAP recognizes that although the intent of the NAP was to ensure that airports would be both self-governing and self-financing, small airports did not have the critical mass of passengers to generate enough funds to pay for capital improvements related to safety. ACAP is intended to fund financial projects related to safety, asset protection and operating cost reduction. Overall, there are approximately 200 regional/local airports in the country that are eligible for ACAP funding.

Fast forward 25 years and ACAP has become an invaluable source of funding for the airports that are eligible for it. But, gaps and issues with the program have not been addressed and are becoming more acute.

In the last quarter century airports have seen air demand – and complexity – soar. Today, Canada’s airports are expected to serve passengers with increasingly diverse needs and must fulfill new safety requirements that have changed and become more complex over time. To provide context, just one runway rehabilitation project covered by ACAP costs about $12 million, almost one-third of the total ACAP funding envelope. Yet ACAP funding has not risen since 2000, nor has the program adapted to the changing air service environment.

While there have been program improvements in recent years, funding has failed to keep pace with demand for ongoing safety and security maintenance. ACAP receives $38.5 million in federal funding a year, an amount that has not changed in 18 years. The funding shortfall is exacerbated by the fact that Canada’s airports also face a host of new regulatory requirements in the coming years that have not been addressed in any way by the government program.

In order to be eligible for ACAP funding an airport must:

  • Not be owned or operated by the federal government;
  • Meet certification requirements; and
  • Offer year-round regularly scheduled commercial passenger service.

Further, in each of the three previous calendar years, the airport must have handled at least 1,000 year-round regularly scheduled commercial passengers, although airports designated as a “Remote Airport” under the NAP, do not need to meet this requirement.

Not all airports are funded equally. ACAP funding is pegged to the level of airport activity. For example, an airport with fewer than 50,000 commercial passengers receives 100 percent funding for projects. That number decreases by increments of 5 percent for every increase of 15,000 passengers. When an airport reaches 525,000 passengers, the funding is listed at 0 percent.

The current categories for ACAP funding are:

  1. Safety-related airside projects such as rehabilitation of runways, taxiways, aprons, associated lighting, visual aids, sand storage sheds, utilities to service eligible items and related site preparation costs, including directly associated environmental costs, aircraft firefighting equipment and equipment shelters necessary to maintain the airport’s level of protection as required by regulation.
  2. Heavy airside mobile equipment and safety-related items such as runway snowblowers, runway snowplows, runway sweepers, spreaders, winter friction testing devices, and heavy airside mobile equipment shelters.
  3. Air terminal building/groundside safety-related considerations such as sprinkler systems, asbestos removal, and barrier-free access.

As it stands, ACAP is underfunded, overly complex, highly prescriptive, suffers from a lack of transparency, and has not kept pace with changes to regulatory and weather safety equipment needs.

Working with its counterparts, Atlantic Canada Airports Association, Airport Management Council of Ontario, Réseau québécois des aéroports, BC Aviation Council, Manitoba Aviation Council and the Saskatchewan Aviation Council, the CAC is working to develop a set of recommendations to the government on how ACAP may be improved. This coalition believes that we are at a critical time for airports. Given the above-mentioned changes, adjustments need to be made to ACAP to make it more responsive and useful to those that rely on the program.

If ACAP funding kept pace with inflation, the annual budget for 2019 would be approximately $56 million.

Unfortunately, even if the government tried to catch up by raising the program level to $56 million to match inflation, ACAP would still be underfunded because new safety requirements will be putting even more pressure on the funding envelope. These new regulations are neither minor nor cheap. They include upgrades to accessibility, changes to the Aerodromes Standards and Recommended Practices and the Accessible Canada Act, as well as changes to Global Reporting Format/Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (GRF/TALPA) and new Runway End Safety Area (RESA) requirements. RESA alone will cost Canada’s small airports at least $165 million to fully implement. The pressure is on ACAP to fund these new initiatives, but it doesn’t have the financial resources or mechanisms in place to handle its existing commitments, let alone these new requirements.

To complicate matters further, airports are facing new challenges that were not even imagined in 1994. These include the impact of climate change, which causes changes in storm patterns and freeze/thaw cycles that place additional strain on equipment. ACAP must stay current with new needs by adopting a new forward-thinking dynamic program design that can account for and adapt to climate and other factors associated with the geographical location of the airport.

Make accessing the program simpler, more transparent and more predictable

Based on member and industry experience with ACAP, the CAC has determined that ACAP criteria need to be modernized. Runway length and passenger volumes are not appropriate measures for equipment requirements. The amount of precipitation should be a factor in determining the size of a plow eligible (or other type equipment) for funding. An airport in southern Ontario has different needs than one in Northern BC, and so forth. One size does not fit all, especially when it relates to transportation infrastructure.

Moreover, the complexity of the application process is a challenge in itself. Airports go through an extensive consultation process with Transport Canada staff regarding needs, eligibility parameters, thresholds and airport conditions and also discuss the likelihood of being considered for funding if a project were submitted. The result is some category level 2 projects and most of category level 3 projects are being pushed further and further into the future.

In fact, in the program’s 25 years of existence, and having funded almost 1000 projects, only 18 of those projects have been category 3. This inequity of funding approvals is now shaping behavior. Recognizing the low probability of receiving funding for a category 3 project, airports are simply not applying for those projects. Ultimately this gives the government a false impression of need – airports are not applying, therefore, there is not demand. Meanwhile, the reverse is true and with changes to accessibility regulation and legislation, this need will only be more pronounced.

While the CAC recognizes that Transport Canada has made efforts to improve the ACAP application process when consulting companies offer services to help airports prepare applications, the process is overly complicated.

The coalition will be conducting its research and developing its recommendations over the coming months. If this year’s federal budget doesn’t address ACAP funding, given the time horizons and realities of the 2019 election cycle, the group is hoping to have its input considered and implemented for Budget 2020.

In the meantime, the CAC will be more visible with our asks of the political parties as they compete for votes in the 2019 election. In fact, one of the main asks of all political parties is to increase funding for small airport infrastructure programs for safety and security.

SLC – Designing for the Future

By Bill Wyatt, Executive Director, Salt Lake City International Airport

I’m often asked why, after a week of retiring from the Port of Portland (PDX), I decided to accept an offer to go back to work as the new executive director of the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

The reason is simple: SLC is building what will be the first new hub airport in the country in the 21st century. We’re not talking a remodel or an expansion, but an entirely new airport. The new airport will secure SLC’s position as a global aviation hub that will serve and grow with the region for decades to come.

As with many airports, SLC is experiencing tremendous passenger growth and operating in facilities that are over-utilized and well past their prime. The history of SLC goes back to 1961, when Terminal 1 first opened. Over the years, we added Terminal 2, additional concourses and an International Terminal. Our newest building is the International Terminal, which was constructed more than 20 years ago.

Our facilities were originally built to accommodate 10 million passengers and, today, SLC is seeing upward of 25 million passengers each year. We have become a thriving hub airport for Delta Air Lines and today are Delta’s fourth largest hub.

Our passengers experience congestion at SLC daily, whether it’s curbside, in the parking garage or when trying to find a seat in gate hold areas and restaurants. Plus, the lack of available gates limit new air service to SLC.

But that will all change the fall of 2020, when the first phase of The New SLC Redevelopment Project opens with a parking garage with double the capacity, one central terminal with 16 security lanes and portions of two new concourses. Once we open the first phase, the process to build the second phase begins with the demolition of current facilities, which allow construction to the east to commence. Come 2025, the entire project will be complete and passengers will travel through an entirely new, modern airport.

The advantage to building a new airport is that you can design for the future. The New SLC will be more efficient and more sustainable. The new concourses are designed in a parallel configuration, which will eliminate aircraft bottlenecks, so airlines can get their planes back in the air faster.

We are also aiming for a LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and plan to achieve this through a variety of ways, such as converting all airline ground service equipment to electric by 2023. The use of natural light will also help to achieve our energy goals.

Those who have arrived at Salt Lake City may have experienced a phenomenon that is unique to our airport and which we are addressing in the new terminal. Thousands of young men and women travel around the world on missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and depart from our airport. SLC is also the place where friends and families come to greet these missionaries when they return home. It’s not unusual to see large gatherings at the luggage carousels with family and friends holding signs welcoming back their loved ones. This also presents a challenge to passengers attempting to get their luggage. In the new terminal, we will have a Meeter-Greeter Room where those waiting for passengers to arrive – whether they be military personnel, missionaries or a winning sports team – can relax in a comfortable setting.

But beyond the brick and mortar, the new airport has been designed to leave a lasting impression on travelers. Art and other elements will provide a sense of place through the use of sandstone, copper colors and native plants. The design incorporates plenty of windows to provide views of the mountains from many vantage points throughout the airport, including from an outdoor deck from Delta’s Sky Club.

Passengers will be wowed by massive art installations, such as The Canyon, which is being integrated on both walls of the airport terminal. The Canyon evokes the Salt Lake City landscape and spans roughly the size of a football field.

An expanded concessions program with 29 retail stores was recently announced and includes a mix of local, regional and national brands, including new brands such as Coach, Frye and Mac. The restaurant program announcement is coming soon and is expected to be just as impressive.

And the good news keeps on coming. The $3.6 billion-plus airport is being built without one cent of local tax payer dollars. For years, SLC was the only large-size, hub airport in the country to be debt free. That has since changed, but the foresight of those planning this project allowed the project to begin with savings. It will all pay off in the end. A recent economic impact study showed the project is contributing approximately $5.5 billion to the local economy.

SLC is currently one of the nation’s most cost-effective airports for airline operations and plans to maintain one of the lowest CPEs in the country for a hub operation.

So you can see why my plans to retire have been put on hold – so that I can be part of this remarkable program that will make traveling through SLC truly unforgettable.

Airports Council Supports Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen CBP Staffing

Maintaining the safety and security of the traveling public is a top priority for airports. With more than 1.7 billion passengers traveling through a U.S. airport in 2017, airports continually work with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to protect passengers while providing an efficient screening process. But, staffing shortfalls from these government agencies have proven to be an on-going challenge for airports.

In recent weeks, there has been significant conversation in Washington to redeploy already scarce CBP officers away from U.S. airports to the southern border.  Airports continue to monitor this situation and remain concerned about any negative impacts to passenger wait times –especially ahead of the busy summer travel season – and delays in cargo processing given the already existing understaffing issues at CBP points of entry at airports.

Now is not the time to divert officers away from airports.  Instead, we should be adding more.  That’s why ACI-NA has applauded recently introduced bipartisan legislation by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to strengthen border security and address personnel shortages at ports of entry. Entitled Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act of 2019, this legislation would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire no less than 600 additional officers a year until the agency’s staffing needs are met at America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry.

“The airport industry thanks Senators Peters and Cornyn for their leadership in introducing the Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO of Airports Council International – North America. “This legislation is an important step towards ensuring CBP has sufficient staffing to both address lengthy passenger wait times and open new air service opportunities in communities around the country. It also will provide greater transparency and accountability to CBP’s increasing reliance on reimbursable services agreements and temporary duty assignments to cover its system-wide staffing shortfalls.”

CBP’s current workforce staffing model still shows a deficit of over 3,700 CBP officers. The chronic staffing shortfalls are only expected worsen as CBP deploys the biometric entry-exit requirements mandated by Congress.

The legislation also aims to provide greater transparency and accountability to CBP’s increasing reliance on reimbursable services agreements and temporary duty assignments to cover staffing shortfalls.

More information on the legislation can be found here.

Checked Facts: Airports Are Not Taxpayer Funded

Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.  If there’s one more thing we can be certain of on April 15, it’s the airlines continuing to spread misinformation about how America’s airports are funded.

It is common misconception that airports are funded with taxpayer dollars.  In reality, infrastructure projects at airports in the United States are funded through three key mechanisms: federal grants through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) local user fee, and tenant rents and fees.

No matter how many times the airlines repeat it, the PFC is not tax. The PFC is a local user fee that airports rely on to repair aging facilities, improve aviation safety, improve the passenger experience, create more airline competition to lower airfares, and accommodate rising demand.  With nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years, the PFC is the cheapest and most sustainable option available.

Here’s why:  The PFC empowers those who know the most about the local airport needs, infrastructure investments, and safety upgrades to make the best decisions for the airport while balancing the passenger’s interests. The PFC is collected locally and, unlike other aviation-related fees and taxes, stays local. It never gets passed to Washington, D.C. The PFC is the only funding tool that maximizes this kind of critical local control.  The airlines’ erroneous “tax” argument doesn’t hold water.

Today’s modern conservative movement is diverse and often fractious, so it can be hard to find unanimity on almost any issue. But when it comes to support for the PFC, conservative think tanks and advocacy groups speak with a clear voice in support of this quintessential user fee.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action, Reason Foundation, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, and Citizen Outreach are some of the leading anti-tax and free market organizations that agree the PFC is a local user fee.

User fees represent a better way to pay for infrastructure. Under this system, the people who actually use the airport bear the burden of upkeep and modernization. That is the most fair and equitable way to fund it – passengers who don’t use the airport will never be asked to pay for it. Americans certainly deserve to keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible.  How else would they be able to pay all those exorbitant airline bag fees?

Philadelphia International Airport Offers a Helping Hand to Federal Employees

The 35-day government shutdown impacted thousands of federal employees across the country, leaving many without the resources to properly care for their families. Individuals, organizations and airports sprung into action in their local communities to help those affected. One of those airports was Philadelphia International Airport.

In the Jan. 25 episode of the “Taking Off with Chellie Cameron” podcast, Philadelphia Division of Aviation CEO Chellie Cameron spoke with community partners about the resources and opportunities available to help federal employees in the area impacted by the government shutdown. Representatives from the airport, TSA Philadelphia, PHL Airline Managers Council, MarketPlace Philadelphia joined Cameron to talk about the initiatives they led to offer support.

“The airport is really a big family,” Clarence LeJeune of MarketPlace Philadelphia said. “So when things happen as in a family, everybody kind of gets together and figure out how we can help. And the shutdown has been a concern for everyone.”

MarketPlace Philadelphia organized a weekly “Meals on Monday” event to feed more than 500 employees.  Airlines and their industry partners hosted a sit-down lunch for all federal government workers. Fresh Grocer, Wawa, ShopRite, Philadelphia CVB donated coupons, gift cards and other items to help those affected.

Philadelphia International Airport has also opened a food bank to help employees and their families. Mahoney explained that they’re not only collecting food, but baby items, household products, pet food and other items that programs like food stamps will not cover.

“When one of our family members is in need, this community comes together,” Cameron said.

The food pantry at Philadelphia International Airport will remain open through Thursday for those in the area who need assistance.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

Airports Gobble Up More of the National GDP

 

Every year, Thanksgiving brings an opportunity for American’s to celebrate and give thanks for what is most valuable to them. ACI-NA has always maintained that airports are valuable economic engines for their local communities and the nation. I’m thankful that still stands true today.

Our latest economic impact study finds that the 493 commercial airports in the U.S. have a collective national output of $1.4 trillion. That equates to a contribution of more than 7 percent to the GDP. What’s more, airports support a total of 11.5 million jobs and create a total payroll of $428 billion.

It’s clear airports are an important piece of the pie when it comes to our economy. But, these numbers also highlight the challenges facing our airports to meet the growing demands of the future.

Last year, more than 1.8 billion passengers arrived at and departed from U.S. airports.  So far, our airports are on pace to surpass last year’s numbers even as we embark on the busy holiday travel season.

Last week, TSA estimated 25 million passengers will travel through airports during the Thanksgiving travel period this year. That’s an increase of 5 percent from 2017.

With the number of passengers on the rise, our airports are at risk at falling. Airports have nearly $100 billion in significant infrastructure needs that threaten their ability to serve their passengers, grow their local economies, and create good paying jobs.

This economic impact study will serve as a staunch reminder to policymakers in local communities and Washington, DC that airports are valuable assets. In fact, it only helps us make our case that we must provide airports with the tools they need to make local infrastructure investment decisions.

I encourage you to join us in sharing the impact of your airport in your community with your policymakers and local partners.  As a collective voice, we can amplify the message that America’s airports need additional infrastructure investments to remain the powerful engines of economic growth they are.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Kevin M. Burke

President and CEO

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA)