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Metrojet Flight 9268 Crash: Egyptian President Says the Plane was Deliberately Downed

Egyptian authorities have said for the first time that the Russian commercial jet that crashed on 31st October last year in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was deliberately downed by terrorists.

Metrojet flight 9268 was heading to St. Petersburg, Russia, when it went down, killing all 224 people on-board. Islamic State had immediately claimed the responsibility, and Moscow’s investigation report had also claimed that a bomb downed the plane. However, the local authorities previously rejected these claims and maintained that a technical fault caused the accident.

In a television speech on February 24th, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said, “Has terrorism ended? No it has not, but it will if we unite. Whoever downed the Russian plane, what did he mean? He meant to hit tourism, and to hit relations with Russia.”

Sisi’s comments are the first official indication from Egypt that the plane was deliberately crashed.

Jump Starting the Discussion

Thank you, Lee [Sander]. It’s great to be here with you.

Let me start out with an observation. Sue Baer called a few weeks ago to ask if I’d be coming to New York for lunch. I should have asked if she had also invited 300 other people as well. Just kidding.

I did not hesitate to come. The Regional Plan Association’s report raises big ideas that, quite frankly, we’ve all been thinking about and talking about for quite some time. It’s my hope that this report serves as an impetus for forward movement.

If there’s a bottom line in all of this, I think it’s best to start there: The FAA is not in the position of telling this region what path to take or what decision to make. That’s your purview, and there’s little doubt that it has to be decided in the context of what role you see the airports in this region playing. From a federal standpoint, I should point out, though, that the decisions cannot be made in a New York/New Jersey vacuum. The ripple effect of what happens here in New York, not just the big three, has a tremendous impact on the rest of the system.

Back in my office, I have what’s called a TSD monitor – the traffic situation display. It’s a map of the United States, and it shows all aircraft being tracked with a flight plan, and it has a weather overlay. Lots of dots. I’d say it looks like a Christmas tree, but you’d never want to put this many lights on a Christmas tree. In the morning around 7, I can watch the East Coast “light up” as traffic starts to flow to and from the great Northeast from across the country. Over the next couple of hours, you see a steady march west as Chicago, and then Dallas and Denver, and finally the west coast open for business. It stays like that until early afternoon, when there’s another queue forming from across the pond.

Meanwhile, New York stays busy throughout the day and that lasts until early evening, when it intersects the push out of the city across the pond that lasts until 8 or later.
On the TSD, this region is a starburst that glows all day and into the night. The airports up here are just like the George Washington Bridge: everyone wants to get in or out at the same time.
The decisions you make about the paths you take with these airports has an effect that’s local, national and international. Delays, efficiency, capacity – they affect ledgers from here to the other side of the globe and back.
And by no means are economics the only consideration. What we’re all after is to provide a positive experience for the flying public. There are proximity and land constrailand and environmental effects as well.

Our role at the FAA is to help as best we can with critical tools like NextGen. There’s an incomplete understanding of what NextGen is and what it can do. The concept is simple: NextGen is a set of technologies, processes, procedures and policy that together will revolutionize how people fly. It’s a radical departure from the ground-based radar of years gone by, a shift toward satellite control and navigation. It’s a game changer for the controller, the pilot and the passenger. If you want to say it’s like going from an abacus to an iPad, I think you’re not overstating the case.

We’ve estimated the delay reduction at the New York airports that we would expect to occur from mid-term NextGen improvements. Overall, we expect arrival delays to be reduced by 48 percent. We think gate departure delays will be reduced by 17 percent. Taxi-out delays are even more dramatic, with a reduction of 64 percent. We commissioned a report by UC Berkeley, and just last October, the direct costs of domestic flight delays put a dent in the economy to the tune of just under $33 billion. The passenger foots half of that.

The RPA report we’re discussing today had equally sobering numbers with equally sobering consequences: In 2009, air passengers and cargo generated 16 billion in wages, 48 billion in sales, and 400,000 jobs. If we don’t make it possible for additional passengers to come here, over the course of two decades, that amounts to 125,000 lost jobs, 6 billion in wages and another 16 billion in sales.

Those numbers are hard to ignore. But with the technology and procedures of NextGen, we can help turn that around. But we are well aware that that is not the whole story. If you want to get maximum return on the investment, if you want to support unconstrained market growth in aviation, you must take an aggressive approach to upgrading your infrastructure to maximize the benefits of NextGen.

I understand, and I sympathize with you, about the political will and the time it takes to put in a runway. That’s not lost on anyone. But with the status quo, the equation will not work. “I love New York” isn’t just a jingle. People fly here in ever-increasing numbers, actually record-breaking numbers – over 48 million. That puts you right near the top of the list of destinations on the planet. I don’t see that trend slowing down even a little.

If this report does anything, it’s a red flag that says this conversation cannot stay at a whisper. It also says that finger-pointing and waiting for the other guys to make the first move are non-starters. To realize capacity, NextGen is a must, but without expansion – no pun intended – you cannot get there from here. Better utilization of the outlying regional airports is part and parcel with that expansion.

As you know, the FAA continues to make strides to eliminating the bottlenecks here. We have created a special program office to concentrate our resources to address this problem. We’re making NextGen advancements like ADS-B for satellite navigation and ASDE-X for increased safety on the ground. Working together, you’ve been at the forefront of collaborative surface traffic management at JFK. We dedicated a new tower at LaGuardia last Friday. We are successfully rolling out the redesign of airspace here. We provided the Port with an $89 million letter of intent to fund eight delay reduction taxiway projects. Those alone are expected to reduce delays by more than a minute per operation for a savings of $46 million annually at Kennedy.

In closing, let me say with all emphasis that I completely disagree with the people out there who say that there’s no solution here. In fact, there is. Active collaboration will get us where we need to go. Between and among governments – federal, state and municipal. Cooperation among airlines, authorities, and all of the stakeholders right here, right now. Let’s not overlook inter-modalism. Heavy and light rail, maritime, vehicular traffic, and the passengers and the neighboring communities. When you have full-out collaboration, we’re able to make huge strides, like we did with the major construction program on the Bay runway at Kennedy this past summer.

With respect to what brings us here today, I can’t say it any more plainly: Everyone has a role, and I want to thank the Regional Plan Association for jump-starting the discussion to bring all of this to the table and initiating what needs to be a very public discussion regarding some very hard choices. This independent study is indeed a step in the right direction. Thank you.

Harrison Ford

Wright Memorial Dinner

Good evening, and thank you, Lisa [Piccione]. I’ve got to tell you … I had to resist the go-to move to, in the interest of safety, to spend some time talking about why doing “Indiana Jones” style stunts in an airplane would be a really, reallybad idea.

But that’s not what tonight is all about. We’re honoring a pilot, a man who in spite of being a very well known celebrity has used his passion to serve as a springboard for aviation. Even in this room, Harrison Ford’s passion for aviation stands out. When he and I met and talked at a fundraiser at Oshkosh a few years ago, I learned pretty quickly that this is somebody who just loves aviation. Here’s a guy who is on Hollywood’s speed dial, and he wants to talk about hisidea of fun… which is actually a two-parter: flying, or talking about flying.

In my book, he’s very clearly a student of the craft. Our system is as good as it isbecauseof him and people like him. There’s no special setting for pedigree on the yoke. You have to know your aircraft, and youhave to make sure that you’re both current and qualified when it comes to flying it.

The good news here is that is exactly what we find in Harrison Ford. I’ve been flying now for almost five decades myself, and after a while you learn that you really can separate the ones that have it from the ones that don’t… Well, trust me, he’s got it.

There’s a hangar in Santa Monica that shows he’s got it bad for things that fly. Fixed wing and rotorcraft rated. Walk in that hangar, you’ll find a Bell, a Beaver, a Husky, a Bonanza and a Caravan. He’s a one-man air show. That’s the inventory of someone who is a student of aviation.

But I must tell you, that list of aircraft takes a back seat to what he has given toour industry. As chairman of the Young Eagles, he has been instrumental in giving our youth their first taste of aviation … their first flight. In his case, the word “chairman” was not a ceremonial title. You might expect that as chairman, he might have flow a fewyoungsters by himself. But you know what? He’s actually flown 306 … to be exact. That’s right kids; Han Solo is the pilot in command. Except you can bet those kids didn’t want to be Han Solo. They wanted to be Harrison Ford, the pilot.

We’re always looking to ways to boost aviation… to inspire the next generation into aviation, especially to the youth of America. Here’s a guy who does it. We’re all about getting more science, more math, more engineering into our school curriculums. With aviation, you can do all three in with just a barrel roll or two. Wall Street can have Michael Douglas. We got Harrison Ford. Score one for aviation.

Harrison has also been an outspoken advocate for aviation safety. He’s spoken up about runway incursions and airborne turbulence. His ticket shows me enough ratings to know that he’s not casual about aviation … he’spassionate. And when I talk about professionalism, I’m talking about the man we’re honoring here tonight.

He has given much to aviation, but his legacy will be as a pilot… as an advocate… as a man whose passion is to enjoy the cockpit view of the horizon … and to give others a chance to do the same. And thatis a very fine legacy and certainly worthy of the honor he’s receiving tonight. Thank you.

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