ATCA Annual Highlights Importance of Blue Skies Initiative for the National Airspace System

Blue Skies Initiative

As the 65 annual ATCA Annual kicks off, members, industry, and government leaders are joining together to discuss the challenges that are facing the National Airspace System (NAS) today and how to prepare for the future. One panel featured the leaders of the Blue Skies Initiative, who have come together to provide the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with insights into how to keep pace with the latest technology innovations while maintaining a safe, secure, and efficient airspace.

Connected Aviation Today had the opportunity to connect with Charles Keegan, CEO of Aviation Management Associates, an ATCA member for nearly 40 years, and one of the members of the Blue Skies Initiative Executive Committee. Keegan shared with us a preview of the Blue Skies Initiative and some of the points that will be discussed during the ATCA Annual panel session.  

According to Keegan, the Blue Skies Initiative was created in response to the many challenges that the NAS was facing. “We needed a vision for what would come next after NextGen 2025. We needed to understand where we were heading as an industry and how we would get there,” Keegan told us.

Working together and collaborating between industry and government, the Blue Skies Initiative is looking ahead at what comes next and how to deliver a future-ready framework for modernizing the NAS.

“Twenty years ago, we didn’t imagine the new vehicles that would be in the sky, including UAVs and drones, and we didn’t know how policies and regulations would evolve, but clearly these changes will continue to evolve 20 years from now,” Keegan said. “We need to imagine what the future looks like.”

With an eye towards future innovations, and collaborating with industry, the executive leadership team not only is looking at short term goals, such as boosting passenger confidence and safety during the global pandemic but also a long-term vision for aviation that is scalable and sustainable, all while keeping safety and security at the forefront.

Yet, Keegan stresses that for the Blue Skies Initiative to continue to be successful, it requires engagement from all of its stakeholders. This includes input from the public, along with aviation leaders from airlines, air traffic controllers, FAA, and DoD, as well as input from new entrants including UAS, UTM companies, commercial space companies, and more.

“We need the collaboration to be successful and industry will be critical to help inform the future vision,” Keegan concluded.

During the ATCA panel, Keegan noted that the Executive Committee members will echo the call for engagement from industry and ATCA members, as well as discuss the pillars that will be foundational to the future vision. These pillars include operational needs, infrastructure capabilities, new business models, and workforce transformation.

“My hope is that while the event will be virtual, we’ll be able to reach more attendees than we have in a traditional setting and offer them exciting opportunities to participate with us in our working groups,” Keegan concluded.  “We need diversity in thought, and with a further reach, we have the opportunity to crowdsource ideas to help us get to this future vision. That’s exciting.”