A group of air taxi operators plans to launch operational trials to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of accelerating next generation air transportation system (NextGen) technologies.
The group, under the auspices of the Personal Air Transportation Alliance (PATA), plan to launch the trials into this decade rather than the next.
Former NASA Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) visionary and PATA supporter Bruce Holmes says air taxi operators flying small modern aircraft such as the Cirrus SR22 and Eclipse 500 have a unique opportunity to test and prove out NextGen technologies without impacting airline hub and spoke operations. The SATS programme ended in 2005.
"We´re typically not using OEP 35 plus 250 airports [the busiest 285 commercial service airports in the USA]," said Holmes at a Joint Program Development Office meeting in Washington on 28 February.
Holmes left NASA and is now the chief strategist at DayJet, a per-seat on-demand air taxi service exclusively operating Eclipse 500 very light jets and now serving 60 US cities.
According to US Federal Aviation Administration records, DayJet has reserved 650 tail numbers, 28 of which are already on its aircraft.
Based on a year´s operating experience at DayJet, Holmes says NextGen "green" goals of increased capacity, better fuel economy and lesser environmental impacts will be achievable by putting in place:
* Required navigation performance (RNP) procedures "everywhere" to optimise how airspace is used * Automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) In and Out everywhere to allow for self-separation enroute * Multi-lateration and broadcast traffic information services (TIS-B) on the surface at airports to allow safe and efficient operations without surveillance radar * Common internet protocols so operators can better control their fleets from minute to minute * Precision minima to all runway ends with GPS-based approaches
Unlike airlines, which are focusing on RNP in the terminal environment to increase fuel efficiency and cut noise, Holmes says enroute RNP will be the "biggest bang for the buck" for DayJet. For a typical Florida DayJet trip from Boca Raton to Lakeland, Holmes says fuel burn could be decreased by 24% if higher altitudes and more direct routing were possible.
PATA supporter and former National Business Aviation Association chief John Olcott says the group is seeking members from air taxi companies as well as aircraft and component manufacturers and infrastructure providers, in part to pay for full-time staff that will oversee the demonstrations, many of which have been developed but not started.
Current members of PATA include DayJet, Linear Air, North American Jet and Pogo, says Olcott.