Posts Tagged ‘NextGen’

NEPA and NextGen: Airports can bridge the gap between industry and the public

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Discussion of NextGen and NEPA issues was a hot topic at the U.C. Davis Noise and Air Quality Symposium earlier this month – not only in “formal” sessions and presentations, but informally over dinners, cocktails, and networking sessions.  Jason Schwartz of the Port of Portland presented a great graphic which summarizes the central role of airports in this discussion:

Courtesy of Jason Schwartz, Port of Portland

Of critical importance – and a potential significant benefit from the perspective of FAA officials tasked with rolling out performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures as quickly as possible – will be the role airports can play in outreach.  I believe this will be the key to maximizing understanding and minimizing controversy (and thus avoiding costly and lengthy environmental processes).

As shown in Jason’s slide, airports are uniquely positioned to understand the technical issues and urgency of industry to implement the procedures as well as the concerns of the community and elected officials to preserve their quality of life.   Airports can bridge this gap by engaging both sides in a constructive discussion and evaluation of environmental impacts (and benefits!) resulting from implementation of PBN.  We have been involved in such discussions at Denver International Airport, which FAA hopes to use as a model for collaborative engagement for its integrated National Airspace and Procedures Plan (otherwise known as the “Metroplex Project”).

The FAA is taking a major step to loosen key bottlenecks in metroplexes, the busy metropolitan areas where multiple airports and competing airspace lead to less-than-efficient operations.  The FAA intends to design integrated airspace and new procedures to de-conflict arrivals and departures in an initiative that will reach 21 such areas by 2016.

Source: FAA 2010

The goal of the Metroplex Project is to implement more efficient operations in metroplex areas. Study teams with representatives of the FAA and the aviation community will provide an expeditious but comprehensive front-end strategic look at each metroplex.  They will analyze operational challenges, assess current and planned airspace and procedures efforts, and explore new opportunities for solutions that are tailored individually to each metroplex. Once a study team has come up with the right changes for its metroplex, a design and implementation team will develop the changes and put them in place.  The first two metroplex areas – North Texas and Washington D.C. – have been identified as prototypes for early analysis.  The FAA has completed the initial concept studies for each and soon will be entering the design phase similar to the recent effort at Denver.  The next five metroplexes identified for study are: Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., Northern California, and Southern California.

For a great summary on NextGen Implementation, read this report from FAA.

HMMH will be assisting the FAA to prepare NEPA documents for the upcoming metroplex studies.  I look forward to working with airports – the local experts – to identify important community and local government representatives and strategies for outreach.

As Chad Leqve of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport pointed out on several occasions during the symposium, the rollout of PBN procedures presents a rare opportunity to achieve meaningful noise reduction over noise-sensitive communities.  We should not squander that opportunity.

Thank you for your service

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I protested the Gulf War.  Both of them.  But my post today is about the military, and what I think we can learn from them.

You might ask why.  Well, first of all, it’s Veteran’s Day today, and while not an official HMMH holiday, it is certainly on my mind.  So before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge HMMH’s veterans.  They are: Nick Miller, Bob Miller, Bob Behr, and Everett Heller.  Thank you all for your service.

One of the reasons I have been thinking about “military heroes” over the last few months is because despite my tendency toward pacifism, I find myself often in the company of veterans and increasingly admire them, not only for their service, but also for some of the traits that endear them to me.  This became very clear to me this summer, when Steve Barrett and I had the pleasure of entertaining a few clients over dinner – unconsciously, it turns out that I had invited three former military helicopter pilots.  Dan Frazee from San Diego Regional Airport Authority, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and subsequent Marine 1 helicopter pilot for Gerald Ford; Bill Willkie of CH2M HILL was a navy helicopter pilot in the post-Vietnam era, and Roy Fuhrmann of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is still an active reservist, and most recently served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  All three flew different aircraft, different missions, and served in different conflicts but the things they share are remarkable:  to a man, they are gentle, humble, and soft-spoken.  They are thoughtful, unflappable, reliable, and relentlessly positive – I don’t know that I’ve ever heard one of them gossip or complain even the tiniest bit – somewhere along the lines I think they have just learned that life may be too short to waste time on negative “stuff”.   In any case, it seems they have their priorities in the right place and I have much to learn from them.

Harvard Business Review Cover

Harvard Business Review Cover

As it turns out, Harvard Business Review has been thinking about this as well, and this month devoted an entire issue to “Leadership Lessons from the Military”.   There are several excellent articles in this issue, and I will attempt to summarize one or two key thoughts here:

First, the notion of common mission and purpose.  What is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the company.  Mission must come first, self-interest last.  Creating company value, not the pursuit of private value, should drive leadership actions.  To that end, here’s a good opportunity to revisit HMMH’s mission statement:

HMMH solves complex problems affecting our environment. We develop and apply innovative technical tools, communicate effectively, and delight clients.

How are we doing on that mission statement?  Our diversification into areas such as renewable energy and NextGen environmental planning confirm for me that we’re on the right track.  HMMH is committed to our expansion in these areas – it is the future of the company, and we’ll continue to support our investments in these areas – they have already seen strong returns – and I am convinced that is why we have not had layoffs over the last couple of years while most of our peers in the industry have.  Over the last year or so, I’d say we’ve had mixed success in the tools department:  our new onboard sound intensity measurement system is a great example of teamwork, learning from others’ experience, and focused deployment of resources.  On the other hand, our corporate risk-aversion and too deliberate decision-making process has significantly slowed our uptake of new technology, such as cloud computing.   I believe we need to rededicate ourselves to innovation.  We still “delight clients” as evidenced not only by our improved Dun & Bradstreet Client Satisfaction survey, but also the Zweig White Best Companies to work for survey, in which HMMH staff indicated that being a client-focused organization is of extreme importance.

HBR also had a long article on how strategies for negotiation in high-risk military environments can be employed effectively in business.  We often are engaged in high-stakes conversations – with clients, in public meetings, or even within HMMH.  I found it quite interesting, and think it’s worth sharing a summary of the five strategies they identified:

1.  Get the Big Picture:  When engaged in high stakes conversation or negotiation, start by soliciting the other point of view.  What you learn will help shape objectives of the discussion.  On the client front, one step we’ve taken is to conduct a client interview at project initiation as part of our client satisfaction survey process.

2.  Uncover and collaborate:  By learning the other party’s motivation and concerns, we will be in a much stronger position to propose solutions and invite our clients and colleagues to improve upon them.  Instead of asking “What do you want?” we should be asking “Why is that important to you?”  Some of the discussion at our leadership retreat over the next couple of days will be trying to get at exactly those questions, to enable us to work more effectively as a team. 

3.  Elicit Genuine Buy-in:  Use facts and the principles of fairness, rather than brute force, to persuade others.  Instead of close-mindedness, we should appeal to fairness, by asking “What should we do?”

4.  Build Trust First:  This means dealing with relationship issues head-on and making commitments to encourage trust and cooperation.  I was at the Airport Consultants Council Annual Conference this week.  Ron Peckham – C&S’s President and CEO and this year’s ACC president has a number of favorite quotations.  One of them that always resonates (and which he used on Monday) is this:  A careful conversation is a wasted conversation since it hindered a robust conversation that wanted and needed to happen.  

5.  Focus on Process:  Consciously change the game by not reacting to the other side.  Take steps to shape the negotiation process as well as the outcome.  In high-stakes negotiations, we naturally want to avoid harm to ourselves or constituents; this often creates pressure to give in on critical issues.  The resulting agreement, however, may create an exposure to risk far beyond the immediate threat. 

My takeaway from the military, then is this:  we need to remain true to our mission and be sure that everyone knows and understands it.  In addition, we need most importantly to stay true to our values, which have not changed through all our new initiatives:

  • Serve Clients
  • Be Honest
  • Respect Others
  • Build Value
  • Use Teams
  • Seek Growth
  • Have Fun


JPDO – Federal Policy Framework

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

by Diana Khera 

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the JPDO is also working on setting up a framework for high- level federal policy on several airport-related topics.  There is a sizable list of airport-related policies that are under consideration, but here are a few that have the greatest amount of momentum at this time: 

Timely Equipage of Aircraft and Deployment of CNS/ATM NextGen Technologies: Policies are being explored to determine if operational incentives, economic incentives (e.g., tax credits) or mandates should be employed to promote aircraft equipage of specific NextGen avionics technologies that will be necessary to achieve improved performance and safety in the National Airspace System (NAS). This policy is essential for successful implementation of most of NextGen capabilities.  

Role of Federal Government Airport Capacity Enhancements: The JPDO and its partners are looking into ways to increase and/or alter the way that the federal government supports airport capacity enhancement and airport preservation;  the debates range from simply increasing the federal involvement in base closers and realignments to proposals for legislative changes that would strengthen the FAA’s role as a proponent of the aviation system.   .

Airspace Regulatory Changes – Global Harmonization:  Develop streamlined US and international regulatory/policy coordination, through International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and/or other bilateral/multilateral partnerships, to harmonize and improve flexibility in modification of international regulations and policies related to airspace use.

Part 1 of 2 – Airspace and Procedures at the JPDO

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

by Diana Khera

 There are multiple working groups and divisions under the JPDO that work on topics related to airspace and procedures. There are two conceptual efforts that I would like to introduce to you; Trajectory Based Operations, and Flight Prioritization Alternatives for Super Density Operations.

Trajectory Based Operations is the fundamental premise behind far-term NextGen improvement and it refers to strategic and tactical flight planning and gate-to-gate traffic management,  Trajectory Based Operations represents a shift from clearance-based to 4DT trajectory  based control.  The 4DT refers to the lat/long, speed and intent (or time) components of flight planning.  A major benefit of 4DT is that it enables service providers and operators to assess the effects of proposed trajectories and resource allocation plans (including airspace availability), allowing both service providers and operators to understand the implications of existing demand and  to identify where constraints need further mitigation.

In simple terms, TBO is final, most comprehensive, far-term phase of the FAA’s Big Airspace concept;  so, what is the problem that this concept is designed to fix? The partitioning of current airspace into sectors is largely based on controller workload limitations .  Automated separation assurance which is a part of the Trajectory Based Operations Concept  will remove the workload limitations.  In addition, some structural elements of airspace such as fixes and routes, which help controllers anticipate conflicts, may not be necessary.  TBO will also create airspace flexibility, which does not exist currently due to the lack of decision support tools, and coverage limitations of both radio communications and radar.  The flexible airspace that will be necessary to support TBO will also help elevate the problem of uniform demand and under-utilized controller resources. Several concepts are on the drawing boards for the TBO concept– from the more common ideas of corridors-in-the-sky through concepts for segregating traffic according to air traffic control category to finally the most ambitious and least defined concepts for large scale dynamic resectorization.    The dynamic resectorization shows  great amount of potential but great amounts of work is still needed by the JPDO, NASA, FAA and others in order to define the concept and prove operational feasibility. 

As you can imagine, the TBO is a very complex concept and it involves changes in technologies , procedures, and policies. Some basic features of the TBO concept are: 1) trajectories are prenegotiated gate-to-gate, but are also tactically managed – this implies very high level of automation; 2) level of required aircraft performance will be driven by demands vs capacity; 3) user access priority still needs to be determined but we are reasonability sure by now that it will not be first come first serve; 4) some airspace may be exclusionary to trajectory based operations (especially at high altitude and/or super density areas).

Part 2, on super density, will follow soon – so stay tuned!

Two Articles in ACC Publication

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

by Diana Khera

“The implementation of new Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) routes and procedures will lead to enhancements in the use of airspace, resulting in increased safety, efficiency and environmental benefits. The latest version of FAA’s NextGen Implementation Plan will provide additional detail and clarity on these near-term applications. But what about longer-term NextGen initiatives and what will they mean for airport facilities?”

The latest ACC ConsultingMagazine, a quarterly publication, has an article by me on airport-related far–term NextGen initiatives (excerpted above).  There is also a ‘real-life application’ story by Bob Miller that follows the article.  The magazine and articles are posted online here.