FAA Issues Five-Year 'Flight Plan'

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The FAA's quintennial navel-gazing document, its "2008-2012 Flight Plan" was released Thursday and, while a first glance it doesn't reveal anything we haven't reported before, it does flesh out some initiatives that have been in the trial stage for years. The 60-page document concentrates on safety, modernization and management and sets goals to increase both safety and capacity in coming years. Among the initiatives we haven't heard much about before, however, is a new plan to make more use of so-called reliever airports. The agency intends to direct more Airport Improvement Fund resources to secondary commercial and general aviation airports in congested areas. Those airports can expect more concrete, more lighting and more navaids to handle increased traffic as metro airport traffic counts continue to grow.

There is more detail on ADS-B, air traffic control efficiencies like continuous descent, and ground control safety enhancements. The agency also takes the time to pat itself on the back for dramatic flight safety improvements in recent years. In 1997, Congress challenged the agency to reduce commercial aviation fatalities by 80 percent. It managed a 57 percent reduction, still good enough to claim this as safest time period in aviation history. "Our skies are safe. They are so safe that we now monitor incidents and accidents that didnít happen," the report exults.