Tag: Aviation

What is the PFC Debate about?

To become financially self-sustaining, airports are continually evaluating ways to generate the revenue needed to support their facility. One key program commercial service airports use to support development and maintenance is the Passenger Facilities Charge (PFC).

The PFC program was established in 1992 and instituted a fee up to $3 charged per passenger per stop, to be used by the individual airport for approved projects that include enhancing safety, security, or capacity, or increasing air carrier competition. Two decades ago, the maximum PFC was raised to $4.50 and has not been adjusted since. The PFC rate amount has been the topic of many discussions between Congress, airports, and airlines. The PFC cap increase debate is once again a topic of discussion in the current FAA reauthorization.

 

1992-2000-2020

 

Rationale in Favor of Increasing PFC Charges

Airports and industry organizations such as the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Airports Consultants Council (ACC) have been fighting for an increase in PFC charges and argue:

  • PFC is a user fee a passenger pays for using an individual airport. If you do not use the aviation system, you do not pay the price. The PFC is not an additional tax.
  • The current proposal to increase the cap on PFCs is needed to account for future inflation.
  • A simple adjustment to the PFC to account for inflation would directly support each individual airport’s infrastructure and fund the improvement projects needed.
  • As traditional revenue sources begin to decline such as parking due to rideshare companies including Uber and Lyft, airports need to identify additional revenue sources.
  • Large airports can drastically reduce their Capital Infrastructure Bonding Debt Service by funding more of the project with PFC revenue. Small communities can use the PFC to cover local share of the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant. Airport Council International (ACI) has a summary document that provides an example of how using PFC would significantly reduce the cost of a large scale terminal project by eliminating long-term debt payments.

Rationale in Opposition of Increasing PFC Charges

  • Airlines do not want to charge passengers additional fees.
  • The public is sensitive to airline ticket pricing and is not likely to support increased fees that will raise those fares.
  • Some airports negotiate fair and reasonable rates and charges without utilizing a PFC.

AIP Funds & Questions to Consider

Many United States airports rely on federal, state, and local funding to maintain existing capacity, accommodate growth, and support a safe, reliable national airspace system. The reality is, our nation’s airports are vital public utilities with sizeable operation costs. To meet the airports’ individual infrastructure needs the FAA established the AIP trust fund. This program was created as part of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1981 as a means of distributing federal entitlement and discretionary funds to airports that are part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

As we continue to watch the debate unfold over the following weeks, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase with future adjustments for inflation or we keep the status quo. There are still many questions to be considered. Per U.S. Code Title 49 USC § 47114(f), the amount of entitlement funds for large and medium hub airports that also collect a PFC, are reduced based on the PFC collection level approved for that airport. For example, if the airport is collecting at $3.00 or less, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 50%. If the airport is collecting more than $3.00, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 75%. If PFC raises to $8.50 or something in between $4.50 and $8.50, how would this further affect the process for AIP entitlement and discretionary distribution of funds? Would there be additional federal money supporting small airports while larger commercial airports can support their operations through PFC?

The Future of Airport Infrastructure

Airport executives are in a position where they are required to plan for future growth, support airlines, support aeronautical activity including the safe and efficient transport of people and goods, and enhance passenger services. How these improvements and services are funded are an integral part of the PFC cap increase debate. Legislators need to decide if an airport is a public asset that is to be supported by the government as an essential and vital piece of transportation infrastructure; or is an airport a business just like any other that is fiscally responsible for their operations? How this on-going debate over raising the PFC is addressed in 2020 will be key to airport infrastructure funding in the future.

Preparation Tools for Snow and Ice Control at Your Airport

Although our calendars will mark the official start of the winter season next week, many of us have already been impacted by the early arrival of snow and ice. Fortunately, our nation’s airport operators have been preparing for this wintery mix long before the first snowflake arrived. These airport operation professionals understand the vital role our Commercial and General Aviation airports play in the country’s transportation system and the importance of keeping them open and in safe operating conditions during every season.

HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS

Airport operators have many tools to assist with mitigating hazards created by winter weather. Perhaps the most important being an up-to-date Snow and Ice Control Plan (SICP). A comprehensive SICP includes a detailed game plan to address hazardous pavement conditions that may develop from any winter weather. This would include something as important as ensuring reliable communications between all entities involved in the airport operation. Snow crews, who are responsible for the airfield safety, must be able to coordinate airfield maintenance operations with Air Traffic Control, individual aircraft, and airport tenants. They share crucial information regarding the pavement conditions including the presence of contaminants such as snow, ice, or slush, all of which have the potential to negatively impact aircraft. Equally as important, they coordinate personnel shifts to ensure their staff is rested and able to fulfill their duties.

ICE COMMITTEE

The basis of any SICP starts with identifying a Champion of Winter Ops Safety, usually the Airport Manager or Director of Operations. It is the Champion’s job to gather support and build a guiding coalition also known as a Snow and Ice Control Committee. Preferably, this committee is made up of individuals working in varying roles throughout the airport. This ensures proper preseason planning has addressed every area of the airport and every individual operation focused on improving airfield safety and communications. Establishing this stakeholder group early helps build a solid communication base and creates a culture where communication and ongoing operational evaluations meet the needs of airport users.

Some considerations for airport managers before the snow season should include:

  • Establishing a Snow Control Center (SCC) for snow and ice control activities. This can be as simple as the cab of the operator’s snowplow, a desk in the manager’s office or Fixed-Base Operator, or a special office dedicated to snow operations. The priority is that there is a known official command center that is responsible for clearing the Airport Operations Area, disseminating information related to current field conditions, issuing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), and if necessary, closing runways or areas on the airport unsafe for aircraft operations.
  • Establish airport snow clearing priority areas. This identifies areas that are essential to the safe operation of the airfield. Priority 1 areas include the primary runway, associated parallel taxiways and route to the apron, essential apron area, and emergency staging and access points. Less essential areas, known as Priority 2, can be prioritized and cleared as operators regain control of the situation. These include crosswind runways, supporting taxiways, other airport facilities areas, and additional aircraft parking areas. Priority 3 areas are all other surfaces in the Airport Operations Area, including all access and perimeter security roads. Airport Managers should identify areas that tenants are responsible for and request SICP’s from individual tenants at the airport.
  • Staffing for snow operations. Airport managers should (and if operating a certificated airport are required under Section 139.303 to), “Equip personnel with sufficient resources needed to comply with the requirements of the SICP,” and “Provide sufficient and qualified personnel to comply with the airport’s SICP.” Human factors can play a huge role in operational safety during snow operations. Realistically the snow season can last more than half of the calendar year with storms that can last for several days with little if any downtime. Managers should consider things like personnel training, snow ops crews (A crew vs. B crew), shift lengths including adequate rest periods, food and hydration, and resting areas on site.
  • Equipment Selection & Storage. The amount and size of Snow Removal Equipment (SRE) required to clear the airport is based on calculations laid out in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5220-20, Airport Snow and Ice Control Equipment. The calculations provide guidance on the types and size of equipment needed to clear the Priority 1 areas in a specified time period based on the average annual snowfall, type of airport and annual operations. In addition to the type and size of equipment needed to keep the airport operational, the FAA recommends housing the equipment in a building capable of maintaining 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help prolong the useful life of the equipment and to enable more rapid response to operational needs. The availability of a storage equipment building also ensures operators can inspect the equipment before and after use as well as make repairs and conduct routine maintenance throughout the snow season.

With the snow season upon us, airports across the county will be implementing their thoughtfully crafted SICP with the understanding that it may need to be evaluated and adjusted throughout the season.

If you plan to travel during the upcoming holidays or at any point during this winter season, pause for a moment to observe and appreciate the many hours of planning that occurs before a single flake flies that keeps your airport open and safe during winter operations.

Further detailed information and links to supporting documents where you can find guidance when developing a Snow and Ice Control Plan (SICP) can be found in FAA Advisory circulars, 150/5200-30, 150 and 150/5220-20.

Hidden Revenue Potential at Airports

Whether traveling for business or leisure, many of us have experienced firsthand the increase in the number of air travelers. Although fully booked flights are encouraging news for the industry, they also mean higher operating costs for the individual airports. To help defer these costs and become self-sustaining, many airport managers have begun to explore creative revenue generation opportunities.

A study conducted in 2017 by Airports Council International (ACI) estimated that the airports total cost per passenger is approximately $13.69. This value however exceeds the global average of $9.95 for aeronautical revenue received per passenger. While aeronautical revenue per passenger seems to be constant, the airport has the potential to increase revenue by finding creative ways to increase the non-aeronautical revenue associated with each passenger.

Revenue generated by an airport is typically divided into two streams. Aeronautical revenues include those funds generated to the operation and use of the airfield by aircraft or aviation-related businesses. Non-aeronautical revenues relate to those operations and uses that are incidental to the operation of aircraft. Traditional sources of non-aeronautical revenue include parking, rental cars, terminal lease, concessions, restaurants, and advertising. According to ACI, 39.9% of total global airport revenue is contributed from non-aeronautical revenue sources. Successful airport managers understand not only the aviation-related operations of their airport, but also the revenue potential associated with non-aviation operations and business. Some non-aeronautical revenue strategies that are applicable to both commercial service and general aviation airports include:

non aeronautical strategies

As technology advances, additional non-aeronautical revenue sources may also rise and airport administrators must be willing to embrace these opportunities to help defer ever-increasing operating costs and become self-sustaining.

For further questions about these creative approaches please contact me.

How Hoyle, Tanner is Saving Time and Money with Drone Flights

Clearing the air! This is what our small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS – commonly referred to as drones), operators Evan McDougal, CM and Patrick Sharrow, AAE are incorporating into airspace analysis. Evan and Patrick are just two of Hoyle, Tanner’s professional Part 107 remote pilots who are utilizing photogrammetry and advanced autonomous sUAS technology to analyze and access airspace obstructions. With recent media highlighting the challenges of integrating sUAS operations into the National Airspace System, it is an exciting time to focus on the safer, less expensive, and expedient capabilities that these vehicles make possible.

Many organizations, both private and government, are interested in what these small flying sensor system platforms can do. For instance, many state aeronautics agencies that oversee the safety and operation of multiple airports can spend weeks with multiple survey teams and inspectors traveling from airport to airport assessing tree canopy and surrounding buildings – all in an effort to determine if there are obstructions to FAA approach and departure surfaces and pilots utilizing the runway.

In contrast, a drone can be flown by a trained and qualified pilot to collect accurate obstruction data. The three-dimensional results can show the entire area in many formats in a fraction of the time and cost it would take a ground survey crew or aerial survey.

Hoyle, Tanner is passionate about increasing safety and efficiency in aviation. During the September 2018 National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) Annual conference in Oklahoma, Evan McDougal demonstrated his enthusiasm for the emerging technology and the airspace analysis applications we have developed.

Evan showed interested State Aeronautics Department Representatives how they could benefit using sUAS systems for obstruction analysis. Bryan Budds, Transport and Safety Section Manager at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), was quick to recognize the benefits of this capability and the opportunity to advance the MDOT existing drone program. He arranged for Hoyle, Tanner to spend three days training DOT employees on how to collect accurate obstruction data using drones as well as process it into meaningful deliverables.

The information gathered in the sUAS flights is used to create detailed 3D models of the airport including trees, pavement condition, ground contour elevations, and surrounding land development. Once collected, the data can be used to graphically depict airspace approach corridors that are not able to be seen with the naked eye. Obstructions are clearly shown protruding into protected airspace making it much easier for the airport and responsible landowners to agree on obstruction removal alternatives.

With the proper coordination of sUAS data collection and software processing systems, “clearing the air” can be done economically, accurately, and efficiently. The exciting reality of the sUAS market is that the sky is the limit! Hoyle, Tanner is committed to continually evolving and developing new opportunities to increase safety and efficiency in aviation moving into the future.

Curious about how you could use drones on your next project? Contact our experts Patrick Sharrow, AAE, psharrow@hoyletanner.com or Evan McDougal, CM emcdougal@hoyletanner.com

How has Hoyle, Tanner and the Aviation Industry Changed over the Last 45 Years?

jets with colored streams

In 1903 the first manned flight lasted 12 seconds and went for 120 feet. Today, unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, can stay airborne for up to 30 minutes and have a maximum range of 34 miles. August 19th is National Aviation Day, and it has us reflecting on how far the aviation industry has come since that first flight in 1903 and how our company has transformed along with it.

OPENING THE DOORS to the SKYWAYS

Forty-five years ago in 1973, Doug Hoyle and John Tanner formed Hoyle, Tanner. They began their firm providing only aviation and environmental engineering services. Today, Hoyle, Tanner has expanded into multiple engineering disciplines, with over 100 employees. One of our firm’s early major milestones in our aviation engineering service capabilities occurred in 1986 when Hoyle, Tanner was selected to prepare the Master Plan for Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. Ellington Field needed to maintain its role as a base for military and NASA operations, but at the same time become an airport for the public. Careful planning and diligent efforts were made to please those involved. In the end, the Master Plan was completed on schedule and rolled out to the public in 1987; the City had a new airport. Commercial, corporate, military and private interests were better served, and there was an expectation for an up-tick in regional economic activity. Hoyle, Tanner’s Airport Master Plan for this airport was ultimately used as a guide to implement a comprehensive program to plan and upgrade the former military base to meet its new civilian status.

CHANGING WITH TECH

Historically, aeronautics has evolved alongside technology. For approximately the first 20 years of the company’s history, our aviation design engineers and draftsman worked together to illustrate airfield improvement project designs on polyester drafting film known as Mylar. This was a labor-intensive process that could be compounded when considering alternative design scenarios. In the early 1990s, Hoyle, Tanner began using engineering design and drafting software. The incorporation of Autodesk Land Desktop allowed for increased accuracy, a more efficient design process, and the development of a product that can be more easily used to engage the public.

TERROR IN THE SKYS

A major shift in the aviation industry occurred following the 2001 terror attacks. Prior to the attacks, you could follow your loved ones to the gate to see them off on their journey. Today all those good-byes happen before security check points. Two months after the attacks, on November 19th, Congress federalized airport security by passing the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. This security measure and others, such as body scans and shoe removal, were an effort to protect the safety of the traveling public. On a more practical note, cell phone and laptop charging stations have become the norm in every terminal to accommodate the lengthy wait time before, and between flights.

A NEW GENERATION OF EXPLORERS

With the significant decline in pilots and the FAA expansion of regulations, the industry is seeing a drop in commercial airline pilots. The drop is not exclusive to pilots. A recent study by Boeing, projects the need for 790,000 new aviation pilots for the next 20 years. This equals to roughly 108 new pilots every day for the next 20 years. Aviation is not exclusive to pilots. Other careers include: engineering and mechanics, airport operations, and aircraft manufacturing. With several hundred thousand pilots and mechanics retiring over the next decade, the need for the new enthusiasts grows. For the past five years, Hoyle, Tanner has partnered each summer with Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camps to expose the next generation of aviation enthusiasts to the aviation field.

THANKFUL

In the 45 years that Hoyle, Tanner has successfully navigated the civil engineering world, we are able to reflect on our roots in appreciation. So much of our success has stemmed from those early days mapping the skyways, and we owe much of our aeronautical achievements to that one milestone: The Master Plan for Ellington Field in Houston.