The U.S. Air Transport Association (ATA), has reiterated the importance of air traffic control (ATC) modernization, stating that it is the key to further gains in industry-wide fuel conservation, which in turn will help the industry combat soaring fuel costs.“Record fuel prices are stalling the industry’s recovery and highlight the critical need for ATC modernization,” said ATA Vice President and Chief Economist John Heimlich.
“The unrelenting increases in fuel costs require that the federal government re-double its efforts to transform the technologies and procedures used to manage air traffic. Moving to a satellite-based system will enable aircraft to fly the most efficient path between airports, which will not only result in financial savings for the industry, but will also improve the flying experience for customers.”
On July 5, 2006, the benchmark price of crude oil surpassed $75 per barrel, after averaging $66.84 in the first half of 2006. With higher crude prices driving up the cost of refined products, the price of U.S. jet fuel averaged $1.98 per gallon in the first half of 2006 - a 29 percent jump from the same period in 2005. At these levels, airlines are not able to fully realize the expected financial boost from their aggressive conservation measures.
“There is no doubt that dramatic reductions in both fuel consumption and expenses can be better achieved through system modernization,” Heimlich said. “There is only so much that the airlines can do internally, with respect to aircraft weight, fleet mix and operating procedures. The next quantum leap in conservation, aside from future aircraft technology, will come from smarter use of our airspace. A modernized system could save hundreds of millions of gallons of jet fuel, as well as billions of dollars annually.”