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Thursday, August 26, 2004
Air Travel Revolution To Be Tested
The Small Aircraft Transportation System project (SATS) has passed another milestone. Earlier this month NASA announced that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility are planning a proof of concept demonstration for June 5-7, 2005 at the Danville Regional Airport in Virginia.
SATS is an attempt to revolutionize commercial air travel in the US. If the project is successful it will distribute commercial air travel to thousands of smaller airports and put people into four- to ten-passenger air taxies. NASA believes:
1. Travel time will be reduced as people access nearby airports.
2. Economic development will be spurred in smaller communities.
3. Air congestion around large cities will be reduced.
4. Safety will be improved.
The current air travel system of hub airports and large commercial airliners has become overtaxed with congestion and has been overtaken by events (September 11, 2001). Many see its continuation as unsupportable. Airline bankruptcies and flight delays they say will worsen and eventually disastrously disrupt the whole system. SATS is an alternative that is beginning to look better as time goes by.
The SATS concept is made possible by the trend toward the development of a new generation of small jets that can be manufactured for less money, are easier to fly, and can be operated more efficiently. If adopted, the system is projected to go into operation in 2015 and to reach full implementation as early as 2020.
SATS has been on the horizon for a while, but has received surprisingly little attention given its potential impact. Calling it revolutionary is putting it mildly. Communication and transportation will be major drivers of business for the foreseeable future. The Internet and low-cost computing have already reinvented communication. Now SATS is promising to make travel to anyplace in the US easier and more affordable. It's estimated that up to 5,000 airports could be incorporated into SATS. Change of this magnitude will open tremendous opportunities for small businesses and the companies that service them.