Release #: 18.14
June 26, 2018

ALPA President Urges Lawmakers to Begin Work Now to Safely Integrate Commercial Space Operations in U.S. Airspace

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Testifying before the Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Capt. Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), urged Congressional leaders to begin work now to ensure that commercial space operations are safely integrated in the national airspace, and that safety remain the highest priority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“As the U.S. airline industry works to meet future passenger and shipper demand while spaceflight operations continue to increase, the aerospace industry must work together to create policies, regulations, and procedures to share resources efficiently and most of all, safely,” said Capt. Canoll at the Commercial Space Transportation Regulatory Reform: Stakeholders Perspective hearing.

For both commercial aviation and space operations, future growth and success are dependent upon safe and efficient access to the same shared public resource—the national airspace system (NAS). Since commercial airline pilots have the unique advantage of being daily users of the NAS, ALPA has an important role in the integration of space transportation operations into commercial aviation infrastructure and operations. This role as a key stakeholder is why ALPA published a new white paper, Addressing the Challenges to Aviation from Evolving Space Transportation, providing input and recommendations on steps necessary for the continued safe operations of airplanes and spacecraft, with a focus on prioritizing the safety of the flying public and crews.

“ALPA’s experience with technology and operations in the national airspace makes it clear that a comprehensive plan is essential to safely and efficiently integrate commercial spaceflight and airline operations,” Canoll continued. “Moreover, Congress must provide the FAA with adequate funding to develop and execute this plan.”

The magnitude and complexity of space transportation operations are putting new demands on aviation infrastructure, including the NAS. According to the FAA, a 2014 report that evaluated the impact of a space launch in Florida resulted in flight delays up to 23 minutes, airspace reroutes up to 84 miles, and thousands of pounds more fuel burned, as compared to similar days with no launch activity.

Among recommendations on how to further, and more permanently, integrate commercial space operations with the existing infrastructure for airline operations, ALPA urges Congress and the administration to create a venue where aviation and commercial space constituents can more effectively communicate and collaborate on issues.   

“In addition, Congress can encourage FAA to conduct the more complex analysis, licensing operations, safety oversight, and air traffic control services that will be required. Regulators can also act now to develop communication, navigation, and surveillance requirements so that space vehicles are compatible with aviation operations. As is true in aviation, regulations must ensure safety in space vehicle design and flightcrew qualification, training, and certification,” added Canoll.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 60,000 pilots at 34 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


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