May 7, 2008
U.S. Airline Industry Marks Major Progress in
Any new action must not compromise safety or increase financial burden on struggling industry
WASHINGTON, DC—Capt. Mary Ann Schaffer, chairperson of the Task Force on Aviation Sustainability and the Environment of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, issued the following statement after testifying this week before the Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the subject of aviation and the environment and aircraft emissions.
“The U.S. airline industry has already made enormous strides in improving its environmental impact without instituting market-based measures, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do more. What must industry and government do to make even more progress to cut emissions, save fuel, and reduce noise?
“First, we need a national energy policy that promotes innovation and provides robust funding for energy research and development to find a reasonable alternative to jet fuel. Second, we need to support modernization of the air traffic control system in every way possible, including accelerating NextGen. We also need to back infrastructure improvements like new runways and taxiways—such as those at O’Hare, Atlanta, and Washington Dulles.
“Airline pilots work at the nexus of air traffic technology, aircraft capability, and operational limitations. We bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of our passengers, cargo, and crew. In our view, any change to regulations, laws, or operational initiatives must be based on maintaining or improving aviation safety. Pilots must be fully engaged to ensure that ALPA’s top priority, safety, remains paramount.
“In addition, ALPA pilots’ jobs and careers rely on a financially strong and stable airline industry. The current challenges we face are unprecedented—record high fuel prices, industry consolidation, and an aging airspace system that requires complete overhaul. When it comes to environmental policy, we also have the added challenge of a patchwork of local, state, national, and international environmental regulations and proposed initiatives that add taxes and charges.
“Challenges certainly exist, but real solutions do, too. ALPA is now fully engaged in many initiatives to further decrease greenhouse gas emissions and reduce fuel burn. For example, RNP and RNAV procedures use satellite-based technology. We can track a shorter lateral path with a more efficient descent profile to a runway. The same techniques are applied to departure paths allowing for precise ground tracks to minimize noise and provide more efficient climbs to higher fuel-saving altitudes. These procedures have already proved to increase efficiency, reduce noise and emissions, and lower pilot and controller workload.
“However, all of these critical improvements can and must be implemented without imposing new economic burdens on the struggling airline industry. ALPA is committed to helping establish international emissions standards and standard operating procedures to protect the environment, promote the economic health of our industry, and maintain safety. After all, with oil hitting $120 per barrel, our industry already has the economic incentive to save fuel and reduce emissions in the process.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 56,000 pilots at 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.
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