After a journey to the Far East that took them to Singapore, China and Japan, FAA brass returned home carrying amended bilateral aviation safety agreements with Singapore and China and news that the Japanese are planning to convert the current Nagoya Airport into a general aviation facility when the new Central Japan International Airport opens next year.
Douglas Lavin, FAA assistant administrator for the Office of International Aviation, said the agency wants to promote business aviation in Japan, where he said only about 20 to 30 business aircraft are registered, compared with 16,000 in the U.S.
“It’s clearly a significant discrepancy and also a burden for our U.S. operators who want to go over there and use their business jets as a business tool,” he told reporters recently. Lavin admitted that the Japanese are concerned “from an air traffic perspective,” while adding there are some issues “in terms of U.S. military airspace.”
Lavin, who has been on the job for about a year, said the Japanese believe that the addition of large numbers of business jets flying in their airspace would further complicate their ATC system. Nonetheless, when the new airport in Nagoya is finished, the current commercial airfield will be dedicated to GA.
“This was an important set of discussions that we had in Singapore, China and in Japan,” said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. “In terms of this overall trip, there is no question that aviation is popping all over Asia. The dynamic there is very palpable when you look at the increase in traffic, and the fact that–in terms of technology–there is opportunity to really leapfrog where established aviation markets are, both in satellite navigation and in some of the available safety technologies.”
She said the Asian nations are convinced of the power of aviation to drive their overall economies, representing potential for the U.S. market and the possibility of establishing a global sky in terms of a seamless, interoperable system.
Blakey said her trip to China was the first for an FAA Administrator since David Hinson went there a decade ago. “It had been a long gap,” she said, “and it was very important from our standpoint, as well as theirs, to really establish a strong, personal relationship with the leadership of China’s civil aviation authority, the CAAC.”
She opined that CAAC minister Yang Yuanyuan represents a new breed of leadership in China. “He is a type-certified pilot on all Boeing aircraft, I think with the exception of the 707,” she said. “He’s a little young to probably have that one under his belt. He comes up through flight standards, and he has a very obvious hands-on feel for the operational issues in aviation.”
In addition to discussing certification standards for China’s planned 30- to 50-seat regional jet, Blakey said she and Yuanyuan talked about advancing satellite navigation into a single global sky with an interoperable air-navigation system. Unlike the U.S., which still relies on legacy ground-based navaids, China has the potential to “leapfrog with the technology” and move ahead to a satellite-based system that can support “the dramatic increase in aviation and in [the number of] airports around China,” she asserted.
In Japan, where the FAA has maintained a presence for 57 years, Blakey said the Japanese are going ahead with MSAS, which is the Asian country’s version of the FAA’s WAAS. And while talks were taking place in Japan, the Indian government announced that it is contracting with Raytheon for GAGAN, a wide-area augmentation system that is complementary to both the FAA’s WAAS and MSAS.
“What this means,” said Blakey, “is that you will have the potential to cross a wide swath of the globe using similar satellite technology for navigation. Frankly, with the addition of a few ground-based augmentation stations, you literally will have a seamless system from India all the way to the United States.”
According to Blakey, this demonstrates the governments’ collective commitments to ensure systems interoperability, thus potentially enhancing navigation and safety.