For us at DOT, that means we don't stand still when times are tough; we take advantage of the opportunity to position our nation's transportation systems for the future.
Administrator Babbitt's point underscores the need to continue planning for significant air traffic expansion. Indeed, while our forecasters see a small net contraction this year in total airspace operations--continuing the contraction from 2008 to 2009--over the next 20 years they predict annual growth (2.5%) in the number of domestic passengers and the number of takeoffs and landings (1.5%).
I don't want to go too deeply here into the various components of our NextGen modernization of air-traffic control (you can read more about it here). But I will say that our transition to this satellite-based system is a winner for safety, efficiency, and the environment.
NextGen offers data communication improvements that reduce reliance on voice communications and significantly reduce the risk of misunderstanding between pilots and controllers. That means greater safety.
By 2018, we expect NextGen to reduce total flight delays by 21% and save over 1.4 billion gallons of fuel--a saving that cuts CO2 emissions by 14 million tons.
Yesterday's forecast is both encouraging and challenging. Of course, we look forward to renewed economic growth and the jobs it brings. But as the economy returns to growth, so does aviation--in leaps and bounds.
The FAA is prepared to manage that growth. With our budget request for additional positions to develop safety standards and provide increased aircraft certification services. With our landmark labor agreement negotiated last summer with air traffic controllers. With our future of aviation forum. And with NextGen.
Look, there can be turbulence on any flight. But we think we've mapped a route that takes us smoothly into the future.