Five Cities in 3 European Countries are planning for AAMs
US aircraft developers and operators see AAM introduction in 2024
States, Counties, Cities and FAA need ULC to get Uniform Laws for AAMs
European planners are already hard at work to define a system for Urban or Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft to connect cities across country boundaries. Any jointly adopted rule will accede a sovereign’s power to regulate, among other things, the altitude, speed, flight paths, operational and vehicle safety… to whatever becomes the final standards. The below article emphasizes the degree to which ground congestion, environmental considerations and urban/suburban development MANDATES the immediate use of AAM solutions on the continent.
The same technology wave is coming to the United States driven by the same factors and further accelerated by the entrepreneurs who see the environmental and efficiency benefits. Organizations, including some of the globe’s largest manufacturers, and agile, innovative individuals are pushing the AAM timeline forward—2022, 2023, 2024 and other dates are listed as implementation years.
American efforts are also moving with these prominent groups:
- NASA heavily focused on safety and environmental
- FAA linked to NASA campaign plus aircraft, airspace, operations, infrastructure and community.
- Community Air Mobility Initiative an impressive organization with advisors and experts that know or involved in urban air mobility, electric aircraft, sustainability, nonprofits, infrastructure and innovative personal aviation industries
Federal preemption and conflict of laws qualify as the legal profession’s most erudite areas of expertise. Resolution of disagreements for AAMs must involve these talents for basic questions like:
–the FAA has preemptive powers over the airspace and as such it may set speed standards, for example. Hypothetical – a eVTOL is descending to land and as it passes through the “airspace” to a lower altitude; where does the jurisdiction transfer to where the city or state set speed limits?
–the flight paths are always within the FAA’s set of exclusive powers. As the eVTOLs mostly operate at relatively lower altitudes. HYPOTHETICAL– the FAA’s NexGen’s implementation history for drawing ATC routes was rocky. Should there be formal consultation requirements? Can a local zoning body prohibit overflights at those heights?
–As AAMs serve local communities, policy theory points to their superior competence to set a limit on the number of AAM operators, even if they have FAA P135 certificates.HYPOTHETICAL: can the City limit the number of operators based on economics?
The siting of a vertiport impacts its neighborhood. HYPOTHETICAL– the county zoning board must/should decide where to locate this noisy infrastructure, but can the FAA countermand this decision—based on safety only? See FAA obstruction evaluation actions
–Same Facts—the local authority has final and absolute power over where the vertiport is located. HYPOTHETICAL—does that decision place inverse condemnation liability on the county/city board under the Supreme Court’s decision in Griggs v. Allegheny County, 402 Pa. 411, 168 A.2d 123 (1961), reversed on other grounds, 369 U.S. 84, 7 L. ed. 2d 585 (1962).
As one UAS group stated, a patchwork set of federal, state and local regulations will cause unsafe confusion and likely strangle this new business in its infancy. Assuming that some consensus can be reached on the above strawmen plus so many other dimensions to these operation, getting all of the relevant authorities to agree and then to implement would violate the length of infinity.
This is not a unique conundrum, and in 1892, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC, also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws), was established. Its purpose, so relevant to our hypothetical AAM conflict, is to provide states with non-partisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law. ULC has already considered carefully (see the library) with a similar set of uniform state laws for UAS operation. It spent time sorting through the tort laws and drones, but stopped when they reached the opinion that the FAA needed to issue more of its guidance. The speed, energy and greater impact of AAMs mitigate for ULC to reopen that project; it provides a track record of reaching consensus expeditiously needed to be ready across the nation for the AAM wave.
Aachen in the west of Germany is stepping up plans to include eVTOL aircraft in its public transportation network as officials look to deal with road congestion and poor connections for local residents and visitors. The city is working with nearby communities in neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands to explore the potential for an urban air mobility (UAM) network that could include Maastricht (17 miles away), Liege (30 miles), Hasselt (44 miles), and Heerlen (12 miles).
In a webinar last week that was organized by air traffic management agency Eurocontrol, Mirijam Böhme, Aachen’s UAM project lead, explained how the work is partly being coordinated through the “smart city” initiatives of the Oecher Lab network, which is backed by the government of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region. Earlier this month, Aachen joined other German cities in signing a memorandum of understanding for a partnership backed by the federal government’s Ministry for Transport and Digitization.
According to Böhme, who is working on a Ph.D. in political science, Aachen faces common 21st-century urban challenges, such as a growing population, shortage of living space and parking (worsened by gentrification), and poor transport links from outlying areas. It is trying to expand and refine public transportation options in a way that is environmentally sustainable and provides practical connections between various mobility modes.
One example she gave of the challenges is that demand for public transportation increases in the winter months. Acknowledging the uncertainty around how eVTOL aircraft will cope with icing conditions, she indicated that it will be necessary to have arrangements in place to quickly offer other options for travelers, implying that Aachen city officials expect to work closely with air taxi operators…
Working with the other cities in the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen officials are forecasting traffic patterns for both short-haul eVTOL rides and potentially longer intra-regional trips in eSTOL fixed-wing aircraft. They are exploring the potential to use three small airports in the region that are both underutilized and conveniently located…
Meanwhile, in Southern Europe, officials in the Italian city of Venice are also pressing plans to roll out advanced air mobility services. Gino Baldi, director for terminal area operations at Marco Polo Venice Airport, told the Eurocontrol webinar that the local airport authority SAVE is aiming to install vertiports in time for the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in the resort of Cortina and wants to be ready to support larger-scale urban air mobility by 2030. Since 2020, it has been cooperating with Italian civil aviation agency ENAC in a UAM working group.
 AAMs share some of these same issues with UASs. Some thoughts on the interplay among the federal powers, state laws and local police authority– 2,4,6,8 — We Don’t Want The States To Regulate; 8,6,4,2 — What’s The FAA & UAS Industry To Do? (link) White House UAS Devolution Policy Test Is VERY RISKY (link)
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