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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 <>


Publication Announcement

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.

Copies of Securing the Future of U.S. Air Transportation: A System in Peril will be available later this year from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or order on the Internet at Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[ This announcement and the report are available at ]

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Transportation Research Board

Committee on Aeronautics Research and Technology for Vision 2050

Ronald R. Fogleman (chair)
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Durango Aerospace Inc.
Durango, Colo.

Jack Clemons
Senior Vice President
Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions
Rockville, Md.

William B. Cotton
Flight Safety Technologies Inc.
Mount Prospect, Ill.

Eugene E. Covert*
T. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics (emeritus)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Willard J. Dodds
Consulting Engineer
GE Aircraft Engines

William W. Hoover
Independent Consultant
Williamsburg, Va.

S. Michael Hudson
Vice Chair
Rolls Royce North America (retired)

Nancy G. Leveson*
Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Richard Marchi
Senior Vice President
Technical and Environmental Affairs
Airports Council International – North America
Washington, D.C.

Richard R. Paul
Vice President, Strategic Development
Phantom Works
The Boeing Company

Amy R. Pritchett
Associate Professor
School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and
Joint Associate Professor
School of Aerospace Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

Robert J. Ravera
RJR Aviation LLC
Reston, Va.

Sanford Rederer
Aviation Planning and Finance
Arlington, Va.

Herbert H. Richardson*
Texas Transportation Institute, and
Associate Vice Chancellor for Engineering
Texas A&M University System
College Station

Russell D. Shaver III
Senior Policy Analyst
Arlington, Va.

David D. Woods
Institute for Ergonomics
Ohio State University


Alan Angleman
Study Director

* Member, National Academy of Engineering