Seattle

Aviation Working Group

Continuing to Lead the Way to Pragmatic Aviation Policy Reform

Eno’s Aviation Working Group is a standing advisory group on all matters relating to aviation policy. The group provides Eno staff with insights, knowledge, feedback, and guidance on how to approach some of the most challenging contemporary aviation issues. With the Working Group, Eno’s goal is to (1) educate the public at large as well as policy makers as to the importance of the aviation industry to the U.S. economy; (2) identify the roadblocks to progress, innovation, and modernization; and (3) propose bold, pragmatic policy solutions to help tackle those challenges. It includes diverse group of industry stakeholders and experts. Members include airlines, airports, labor unions, manufacturers, academia, and other relevant organizations.

Background

The aviation industry plays a critical role in the American economy, and this group recognizes its vast importance. The aviation sector transports 900 million passengers every year and is responsible for $1.5 trillion in total economic activity, nearly 12 million jobs, and represents 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Moreover, the industry’s $83 billion trade surplus is the largest trade surplus within the U.S. economy. Tying this all together is a complex infrastructure network of airports and air traffic control operated by, among many others, millions of highly skilled pilots, mechanics and other technicians, and air traffic controllers.

The tremendous collaborative effort of industry and government over the decades, translated into the safest airspace in the world. But, while the U.S. had long been considered the gold standard in aviation technology and safety, America has begun to lose its edge and is falling behind its peers. Today, congestion and delays plague U.S. airports while high-altitude traffic is guided by inefficient and old point-to-point, ground-based radar technology; qualified workers needed to meet the global demands for air travel in the next 30 years have grown increasingly scarce; and new technologies are challenging airline safety and security.

For more information on FAA reform in general, see our comprehensive FAA Reform Reference Page.

A Time for Solutions

The U.S. cannot afford to continue postponing action in the aviation sector while the rest of the world surpasses it in innovation. Eno’s Aviation Working Group members have identified four areas of continued focus for its future efforts. 

Continued Efforts on Air Traffic Control Reform

Between 2013 and 2015, Eno’s NextGen Working Group gathered the aviation community’s top leaders, influencers and policymakers to inform research and develop specific steps that could be taken to reform the Federal Aviation Administration and address the issues of infrastructure and operations. The recommendations were bold, but pragmatic, and have already dramatically changed the nature of the conversation surrounding air traffic control reform. Recently, Eno has worked on an updated version of our research on air traffic control reform, highlighting new developments and recommendations. As part of our effort to educate the public, in 2017 we will continue our outreach to stakeholders, including federal policy makers.

Smart Investment on Airport Infrastructure

The ability of U.S. airports to accommodate future passenger growth might be in jeopardy. Previous work by Eno found that airport congestion will require systematic and targeted intervention to allow demand not to outpace airport capacity. The economic costs of congestion and delays are in the billions of dollars per year. Today, the busiest 30 airports in the U.S. handle 72 percent of passengers, and while many are prepared to handle more traffic that today, some face capacity constraints, and expansion needs are not being met. Eno will address this issue by addressing the specific needs of the major airports, and discussing potential ways to finance those projects.

Addressing Workforce Crises in the Industry

The aviation workforce is a growing problem for the industry and the U.S. economy. The dearth of pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance technicians exacerbated by a coming wave of retirements in an aging workforce is a looming concern. There have also been labor issues, for example, in airports, with concerns of low pay and high turnover rates. Attracting large numbers of qualified employees to the aviation industry has been challenging, fortunately Eno has been involved in workforce training for several decades. Each one of these issues has a unique and actionable solution, and the Aviation Working Group will work to highlight the need for more workforce development and ways to help the industry get the workforce it needs to thrive.

Ensuring Security and Privacy in the Face of Changing Technology

With the increasing connectivity of our aviation systems, cybersecurity has become a newly elevated risk and is among the most pressing issues affecting aviation. Concerns have also been raised about potential access points – from air traffic control equipment to aircrafts – for hackers and terrorists that were previously unavailable or required physical access to facilities. Unmanned vehicles, or drones, are another technological innovation that has created a whole new range of concerns, from safety (collision with manned aircraft), to security (potential use for nefarious activities) to privacy (for drones equipped with cameras). The development of sound public policies to respond to these disruptive technologies is a must and Eno will leverage its expertise and vast technology network to tackle pressing issues around aviation cybersecurity, the proliferation of drones, and other new technologies that might emerge in the meantime. This is an area where we have been active, with our Digital Cities project, which, with the help of an Advisory Board of experts and stakeholders, is studying the impacts that technology is having in shaping transportation in our cities.

Recent Publications and Resources

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reform Reference Page

Time for Reform: Delivering Modern Air Traffic Control