Smaller Aircraft Mean Big Headaches for ATC Providers

 - February 5, 2007, 5:43 AM

Growing numbers of smaller aircraft are compounding the problems air navigation service providers face, senior officials told the Jane’s conference at last month’s ATC Maastricht 2005.

Russell Chew, chief operations officer for the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, said smaller aircraft with fewer passengers paying lower fares mean revenues per unit of traffic are declining at the same time that unit costs are rising. The number of regional jets is set to more than double, from 917 in 2002 to a forecast 1,940 by the end of next year, while fares have dropped dramatically as result of the influence of low-cost carriers. Chew quoted the example of Providence, R.I., where average fares fell more than 50 percent in the 12 months since Southwest Airlines entered the market.

Alex Hendriks, Eurocontrol’s head of airspace/flow management and navigation, reminded the conference that certification of a new generation of six-seat jets flying at FL310 is expected next year. “Production is forecast to reach four per day by 2007, and 2,200 have been sold already. One [U.S.] air-taxi specialist has indicated that it wants to branch out to Europe and has bought 1,000 aircraft. The size [of these very light jets] means they represent minimal revenue yet the same workload as an airliner.”