Date: Sept. 23, 2003 Contacts: Patrice Pages, Media Relations Officer Christian Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant Office of News and Public Information 202-334-2138; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Overhaul of Air Transportation System Needed to Meet Ever-Increasing Demand
To meet the growing demand for air travel, which is expected to double in the next 10 to 35 years, the federal government needs to make air transportation a national priority with strong, focused leadership, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council and Transportation Research Board. Recognizing the necessity for such leadership, the government has recently begun to address this need by establishing a joint office that involves the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Defense, and several other federal agencies. This office could enhance cooperation among agencies in efforts to modernize the air transportation system, said the committee that wrote the report.
Business as usual is unlikely to satisfy passengers' future travel needs, because aircraft and air-traffic management systems are not being expanded and improved as quickly as demand is growing, the committee said. In addition, the environmental effects of aviation are increasing because more aircraft are in the skies – burning more fuel and producing more emissions -- and airplanes continue to bring unwelcome noise to many communities. More passengers are dissatisfied with the cost of travel and uncomfortable conditions in airplanes, and security is still a major concern to travelers and industry alike.
Such shortcomings need to be addressed together instead of separately to avoid conflicting priorities among the various stakeholders in aviation, such as manufacturers, airlines, pilots, passengers, and government agencies, the committee said.
Substantial improvements to the air transportation system can be achieved through advances in aircraft design, materials, and structures, the report adds. For example, modifying the engine and propulsion system could substantially lower noise and emissions.
Likewise, advanced electronics on board airplanes are expected to improve safety and increase automation in navigation, and the burgeoning field of nanotechnology -- which investigates properties of materials at the atomic level -- should lead to stronger materials, more sophisticated control systems, and better fuel-efficiency.
Computer-based simulations of the entire U.S. air transportation system, incorporating human behaviors, aircraft technologies, and economic constraints, should be used to develop new technologies and operational concepts, the committee added. Modeling such a complex system is extremely difficult, so interdisciplinary research is strongly recommended instead of the current habit of segregating research by scientific field.
The report was sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. The Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. A roster of the committee that wrote the report follows.