With commercial space operations anticipated to double by 2023, general aviation, airline, air traffic, airports, and pilots organizations are collectively cautioning the FAA to ensure airspace efficiency and safety is taken into account when licenses are granted. Eight organizations wrote Stephen Dickson, who was sworn in as FAA administrator earlier last month, urging the FAA to take into account all airspace users as it develops a final rule on commercial space licensing. “It is vital to integrate commercial space users into the National Airspace System (NAS), rather than segregating these operations and penalizing aviation users,” the letter said, also stating, “It is crucial that the FAA preserve the aviation industry’s $1.6 trillion annual U.S. economic activity, which accounts for 5.1 percent of the U.S. GDP.”
On the safety front, the groups asked that the FAA ensure requirements address risks to other aviation users and ensure they are commensurate with expectations of the flying public. “Ensuring safety is vital for a growing commercial space industry and is the path for true integration into the NAS,” the letter said. “The commercial space industry should leverage the experiences from the aviation industry to attain record levels of safety through collaboration and information sharing.”
The groups advise the adoption of programs modeled after the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing Program (ASIAS). In advance of the rulemaking, the FAA may formalize time-based launch procedures, create ATC surveillance and tracking capabilities, provide uniform hazard mitigation policies, and ensure two-way communications, the groups added.
They also believe commercial space licensees should pay into the NAS system. “This would be consistent with commercial airlines and general aviation that have long supported the government’s air traffic management system and airport improvements through various taxes and fees on the transportation of people and cargo, as well as fuel excise taxes.”
Signing the letter were representatives from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Airlines for America, Airports Council International-North America, American Association of Airport Executives, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Cargo Airline Association, and Regional Airline Association.