Late last month I joined Iridium, its partners and Retired U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, to announce the formation of Aireon. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something that I believe will revolutionize air traffic surveillance and even global aviation as we know it.
Over the last 30 years, I’ve had the chance to work on much advancement in aviation in the public sector at the FAA, and in the private sector with American Airlines, Jet Blue and NEXA Capital. But with Aireon, we have a rare opportunity to offer a service that will create unparalleled insight and control of oceanic air traffic; and produce truly remarkable savings through improved flight profiles, increased safety and fuel efficiency.
From an airline perspective, this is as close to a no-brainer as it gets. Airlines are already equipping their aircraft with ADS-B transmitters as mandated globally, and Aireon will allow them to recoup those costs and then some by saving a very significant amount of fuel, their highest single line item expense. Airlines will be able to take advantage of Aireon-delivered data to improve flight operations, open new markets with new and more efficient routes to areas of the world without surveillance infrastructure, and help them to meet the growing requirement for reducing their carbon footprint.
For Air Traffic Control providers such as the FAA and NAV CANADA, Iridium’s partner in this venture, the operational enhancements from giving them the ability to see every plane in oceanic airspace in near real-time will be unprecedented. Just as radar provided skilled air traffic controllers with incredibly valuable insight for managing traffic safely and efficiently in the busy terrestrial areas, Aireon will now do for the vast expanse of airspace over the oceans and remote areas in the rest of the world.
Most of us who fly probably expected that the technology that Aireon will provide already existed. By assuring the traveling public that they are flying the safest and most efficient routes, Iridium — through Aireon — is once again bringing communication systems to market that meet our growing expectations of connectivity.