Can Six Sigma Provide A Solution To Our Over-Crowded Skies?

“Private jet traffic is creating commercial flight delays, safety concerns, and calls for small planes to pay more into the system, according to Business Week (June 5, 2006).” According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Workload Forecast (FAA), which forecast aerospace activity for the next 11 years; indicated that the number of FAA towers will more than likely remain constant at 266 compared with the number of contract towers at 234. The FAA has forecasted that the number of contract towers is expected to increase to 241, during the next ten years.

What is drving this distinct variation between FAA and contracted towers? Could this be one of the driving catalysts when examining air safety as it relates to the rise of private aircraft in our skies?

It is no secret that the use of private aircraft has more than doubled during the past decade (Business Week). The alarming factor in this scenario, is how the current system is being managed by the FAA. As more corporations and those with the resources to utilize private aircraft, the dilemma that confornts the FAA, private jet community and the commercial air traveller is significant. For example, according to the Preliminary and Accident Reports,www.faa.gov/data_statistics/accident in the category “All Aircraft Events” there were a total of 31 events as reported June 5, 2006. In this category alone, 27 or (87% for the day of June 3, 2006) were related to “Fixed Wing” aircraft. These aircraft may comprise Cessna, Mooney, Piper or “Other Fixed Wing.” Whereas, the severity or particular description of the events were disclosed by the FAA, this data is still somewhat alarming.

The convenience of private jet travel and the increased rate or representation of private aircraft in the sky, has the FAA wondering if the private jet owners and it’s lobbying organizations are paying there fair share. In my opinion, based on the data provided by the FAA, there appears to be a significant financial disconnect.

Further, as private jet travel becomes even more accessible and affordable, it is sure to be one of the driving factors in airport delays in contract or FAA towers alike. “That kind of talk has the FAA and the airports wondering how they will be able to accommodate all the new jets. “The small airplane is going to become ubiquitous, much like the SUV,” says FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “It’s good for the business community, but they’re flying in some prime real estate. That’s causing delays even on blue-sky days.”

There is no doubt that the FAA requires an overhaul. There has been mention of replacing the FAA’s radar system with global positioning satellites (GPS). But of course, this can be costly. Until the restructing issue can be resolved, I suggest the FAA pay more attention to operations and processes [internally] at this stage of game and this is where Six Sigma may be of use.

Six Sigma has been hailed by many corporations and certain branches of the federal government, as the most efficient “work combination” possible.

“Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving towards six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process — from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service (iSix Sigma.com).”

In the case of the FAA, the problem is understanding the synchronization of private aircraft compared to commercial aircraft in shared space. Perhaps, examining root cause analysis of why the 31 events occurred earlier this month could be a baseline for establishing Six Sigma methodology.

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