Observations on Short-Term Capacity Initiatives
On September 26, 2008, we issued our review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) short–term capacity initiatives. The Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Aviation Subcommittee requested that we provide observations on the initiatives that will provide the most capacity benefits in the next 5 years and FAA’s management of these efforts. The long–term solution to increasing capacity and reducing delays depends largely on expanding capacity through the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which is targeted for the 2025 timeframe. Although FAA is exploring ways to accelerate NextGen, much work remains to set realistic expectations for when capacity–enhancing initiatives can be delivered. While there is no “silver bullet” for addressing delays, we identified several FAA initiatives planned or underway that can provide some relief from delays and boost capacity over the next 3 to 5 years. These include new airport infrastructure, airspace redesign, performance–based navigation initiatives, and automated controller tools. Each initiative, however, faces challenges that must be fully addressed. FAA has recently taken several steps to better organize and manage capacity initiatives and to help implement NextGen. These include establishing a new Senior Vice President for NextGen Implementation and Operations Planning and a new office dedicated to NextGen efforts. The details of these efforts are still evolving, however, and it is too soon to evaluate their effectiveness. Therefore, we are not making any recommendations at this time but will continue to monitor FAA’s ongoing actions.