Southwest CEO Kelly writes and acts in support of NextGen

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BLOG: State of Aviation: Emerging from a Lost Decade

By Gary Kelly, CEO, Southwest Airlines


The CEO of arguably the King of US airlines posted a thoughtful reflection on his industry. He looks back to the circumstances surrounding 9/11 and then forward to a new emerging reality.

From an economic standpoint that was a period in which the economic forces resulted in the bankruptcy of the legacy carriers and the consolidation of the low cost carriers like Southwest. The industry seems to have stabilized after this turbulence, but challenges, primarily costs, remain.

That same decade was marked by the definition of new technology which would revitalize the ATC systems. However, the implementation of this advance was delayed due to a lack of Congressional support and FAA action.

His conclusion from this economic transition and technological change is that the industry requires a National Aviation Policy, an idea created and advocated by A4A. He urges the public to learn about and indicate their belief in this set of initiatives.

His primary conclusion is that the existing ATC technology is 1950’s based and there is an urgent need to move to the satellite-based navigation system, denominated NextGen. He articulates a strong public policy argument for supporting this investment in technology.

Perhaps most telling is Southwest’s investment in NextGen, most notably RNP, Required Navigation Performance. The airline is equipping its B-737 fleet with the equipment. Coincidental to his blog, his carrier instituted RNP for its flights at Denver, the 40th airport at which Southwest has helped implement this system enhancement. This capital, which Kelly’s company has installed, is the best endorsement of NextGen.

RNP actions speak loudly, but having an industry leader write so eloquently is a big PLUS.

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