NextGen Airport Policy
Political Support May Be Crisis Driven
The UK government, reeling from the BREXIT vote, issued a decision on a new runway for London’s Heathrow Airport after over 10 years of
- public processes,
- consideration of multiple alternatives,
- several promises by Prime Ministers,
- massive political opposition and
- considerable turmoil.
The commentary from the British newspapers, the bastion of journalistic understatement, assert that the May Cabinet felt compelled to do so primarily, if not solely, as a show to its business leaders that it recognized the need to reestablish its commitment to a connection to the economy of the continent and the globe. “The step that government is taking today is truly momentous,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said. “I am proud that after years of discussion and delay this government is taking decisive action to secure the U.K.’s place in the global aviation market.”
To show the integrity of their process, the May Cabinet reviewed and rejected the previously contemplated options to expand airport capacity, including the extension of an existing runway at Heathrow or building a second runway at Gatwick Airport, south of London. Though this historic step was issued, there will be miles/meters before concrete is actually poured. Parliament will have its opportunity to consider (reconsider, reverse?).
The magnitude of this is shown by these factors:
- entire communities could be eliminated,
- the compensation and mitigation could cost 2.6 billion pounds ($3.2 billion).
“This is an important issue for the whole country,” Grayling said. “That is why the government’s preferred scheme will be subject to full and fair public consultation.”
The U.S. faces similar capacity issues both on the ground and within that ATC system. The FAA, several Administrations and several Congresses have expressed support for NextGen as a solution to this national need for increased air transportation to sustain America’s future economy. Rather than just try to expand flights by adding runways, the premise of NextGen visit that some of the increased demand for more aviation by expanding the airspace.
The NextGen initiative is at risk. Local citizen groups are opposing the implementation of routes in their communities. No doubt, the FAA’s presentations of the ATC tracks and processes have not helped. At some point, the same Members of Congress who voted to authorize NextGen, to fund its substantial expenses and to permit expedited review process SHOULD remember those votes and should exhibit their statespersonship skills and speak out on the National Interest.
The need to take a PUBLIC position on NextGen and support its implementation extends to the Obama Administration. In particular, it would be beneficial if, for example, Secretary Foxx could remind the public of the macro environmental gains, of the essential economic improvements and of Congresses’/Administrations’ commitment to the overall importance of NextGen. For example, he recently issued two press releases in which he failed to mention some of the synergistic benefits of the new towers and NextGen.
The option suggested by the London Heathrow case is to wait until a crisis arises to force such support. Leaders, those who history remembers well, tend to be farsighted. Myopia, as a characteristic, tends to correlate with forgotten politicians.