RTCA Symposium: Lockheed Martin CEO Praises Air Traffic Controllers
Friday, June 07, 2013

Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Officer and President Marillyn Hewson delivered keynote remarks (Titled, “Flying Has No Barriers, Delivering on the Promise of NextGen”) during the RTCA awards luncheon on Wednesday (June 5) and was very complimentary of the air traffic controller workforce. Some excerpts:

“Thanks to the FAA, groups like the RTCA, and an exceptional team of air traffic controllers, Allan Lockheed was right: Flying is indeed the safest and most efficient means of transportation in the world.

“Let’s take a moment to recognize the outstanding job our air traffic controllers do – both here in the U.S. and around the world. This is the safest time to fly in history. And that’s a true testament to the talent, skill, and expertise of the air traffic community. We’re lucky to have them. Of course, we all gained an appreciation in April of just how good those controllers are, when sequestration forced the FAA to furlough them. Even though that furlough didn’t last long, the resulting delays, backups, and frustration served as a wake-up call.

“That experience showed us two things:

“First, that our air traffic controllers are doing an incredible job and that they deserve every ounce of the support we’re giving them.

“And second, that the system can’t afford to operate at anything less than maximum efficiency. Our air traffic network is so complex with so many moving pieces that any weak link in the chain will have ripple effects nation-wide. The April furloughs were a warning sign that we can’t take for granted the unlimited potential of air travel.”

Later, Hewson discussed NextGen in detail, including En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM).

"The business case for NextGen is sound. We need the whole team unified behind that business case – telling the same compelling story – and demonstrating why this investment is the right one for America’s future.

"Once we’ve made that business case, the next step is to deliver on the promise of NextGen. That means meeting our commitments for delivery milestones, system performance, and passenger safety.

"It also means following through on the economic benefits that NextGen promises to deliver. ERAM is a great example of that. If you’re not familiar with ERAM, it’s the system that manages en route air traffic at altitudes above 10,000 feet.  It’s a huge network spanning 20 FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers nationwide. And it replaces a 40-year-old system with a new, modern framework that’s built with the future in mind.

"There was a time when the program wasn’t going as well as we wanted it to. As a foundational program for NextGen we know how important it is to get it right – to deliver on our promise. We learned a very important lesson from that experience, which, I believe, will be vital to NextGen’s future. Collaboration with all stakeholders at every stage of the program is the key to success.

"I’m pleased to report that today ERAM is up and running at eleven control centers nationwide. It’s managing a full two million square miles of airspace. And last October the Air Traffic Control Association awarded ERAM its 2012 Industrial Award for Outstanding Achievement in advancing the science of air traffic control.

"While we know there’s still much work to be done, I’m tremendously proud of our team for the progress they’ve made supporting the program. And I’m grateful for the outstanding partnership we’ve enjoyed with the FAA, the Control Center teams, and NATCA. This continues to be a true team effort.

"As we look forward to the challenge of delivering on the promise of NextGen, the importance of collaboration every step of the way cannot be overstated. From the acquisition community, to technical experts, to front-line controllers, and executive leadership, the more we’re collaborating, sharing feedback, and communicating openly with each other, the better position we’ll be in to make the NextGen vision a reality."

To read Hewson’s full remarks, please click HERE.