"Flying Has No Barriers"

Delivering on the Promise of NextGen

 

Remarks by CEO and President
Marillyn A. Hewson

 

Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Annual Symposium

 

Washington, DC, June 5, 2013

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Thank you, Craig [Fuller, RTCA Chairman], for that kind introduction.  And thanks to all of you for the warm welcome.

I’d like to start by congratulating today’s honorees and award winners.  In times of great change it takes individuals with vision and commitment to chart a course forward, and these honorees are shaping the future of both technology and policy.  And, you’re making a contribution that will endure.  You’re carrying on the pioneering spirit of innovation that has fueled this industry for over a century.  Congratulations to all of you. 

I’m grateful to the RTCA for this opportunity.  And I salute your efforts to work side-by-side with the FAA and industry to help pave the way for the future of air traffic management worldwide.  Your work is instrumental in creating a globally harmonized air traffic system that delivers on the promise of NextGen.  We’re proud to partner with you and with the FAA on that important work.

I’m excited to be here today because I believe Lockheed Martin’s support of the FAA and global air traffic management is some of the most important work we do as a corporation. 

Flying brings us closer together, connects the world, and makes our modern lives possible.  I’m very proud that our technology serves the flying public and supports global trade, progress, and security.  Air traffic systems represent an incredibly complex challenge with far-reaching, global importance.  And for the men and women of Lockheed Martin, that’s the kind of work that energizes and inspires us.

We’re honored to have been a part of air traffic management for 55 years.  From the very first mainframe computer we installed at the FAA’s Indianapolis Control Center in 1957, to the unmistakable silhouette of the FPS-117 radar, to the advanced technology of today’s En Route Automation Modernization system or ERAM, we’ve been proud to support the FAA in building the safest, most efficient air traffic network the world has ever seen. 

Speaking of history, some of you may know that last year was our Centennial – the 100th anniversary of the founding of our corporation.  One of our founders, Allan Lockheed, was a true visionary and a giant of aviation’s earliest days.  More than a century ago he made an astoundingly bold prediction.  He said:

“I expect to see the time when aviation will be the safest means of transportation, at 40 to 50 miles per hour, and the cheapest.  And I’m not going to have long white whiskers when that happens.  The airplane will take over both land and water travel.  Flying has no barriers.”

Now keep in mind, when Allan made this prediction powered flight was barely seven years old.  Aviation wasn’t even an industry – it was a spectacle and a dangerous one at that.  Flying was the domain of barnstormers and risk takers – the original extreme sport.

Even at the earliest light of the dawn of this new industry, Allan saw the unlimited promise of air travel.  And yet even this aviation pioneer could not comprehend the pace at which the industry would develop. 

When Allan passed away in 1969, jets were flying through the skies a bit faster than 50 miles per hour.  He was off by an order of magnitude.  We can forgive him for that, though, because everything else about Allan Lockheed’s prediction proved remarkably true.  There have been virtually no barriers to the exponential growth of air travel.  Last year, the number of passengers flying into, out of, and within the U.S. numbered more than 800 million.  

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. 

I still believe, like Allan Lockheed did, that flying has no barriers.  In reality, though, we know that it takes vision, agility, and hard work to keep up with the rapid growth and change that has been the hallmark of aviation.

Although we’re in the midst of a period of flat-to-declining growth, the FAA predicts that commercial air travel will begin to pick up again in 2014 and is expected to grow steadily after that for the next 20 years.  I mentioned earlier that airlines carried 800 million passengers last year.  Two decades from now that number is expected to climb to 1.15 billion here in the U.S. alone!

Cargo transport, the backbone of our economy, will grow even faster.  Starting in 2014, the FAA expects cargo will grow twice as fast as commercial travel. 

And the future is not just about capacity, it’s about efficiency.  Air transport is a major driver of global commerce.  Every pound of fuel we can save, every minute of wait time we can reduce, and every additional flight we can schedule will boost everything from trade to tourism.  Imagine how much we could accelerate the global economy if air transport could be made faster and cheaper – and not just next year – but year after year after year. 

Allan Lockheed would be amazed.  He’d also be dismayed, though, by the possibility that sequestration could rob that vision of the resources it needs to be successful. 

For a century flying has had no barriers, we always met any barriers that came along, we pushed the throttle and cleared it.  As we look ahead, the barriers on the horizon are starting to look more and more menacing. 

We believe that NextGen is the right answer for the future.  The vision and road map laid out by the FAA and groups like the RTCA are exactly what we need to stay ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.  The question is: what’s it going to take to achieve the NextGen vision in a post-sequestration world?  How can we clear the barriers in front of us and continue to power the unlimited potential of flight?

I’d like to suggest three steps that we as a cohesive team need to take to ensure the success of NextGen and to deliver the stronger, smarter, and even safer global air traffic network of tomorrow.

First, we have to make the business case for an investment in NextGen.

The federal government is grappling with a growing list of priorities and a scarcity of resources. So we have to show – in no uncertain terms – why NextGen is the right investment for America.  The good news is we have a great story to tell. 

Investing in NextGen today will save taxpayer dollars and grow the economy tomorrow.  The Aerospace Industries Association estimates that reducing NextGen funding by just 30 percent could result in 40 billion dollars in lost economic output and could cost this country an astounding 700,000 jobs by the year 2021. 

This isn’t just an investment in air traffic management. It’s an investment in national and global commerce, in tourism, in business travel, and in the infrastructure that makes this country run.  And let’s not forget the benefits to the environment.  NextGen will make air travel greener than ever.

When I look at the business case for an investment at Lockheed Martin, it comes down to numbers and results.  How will this benefit our customers and our operations?  Where’s the break-even point?  When do we start seeing a profit?  Most importantly: why is this investment better than all of the other alternatives in front of us?

Congress has to make tough choices about where to focus scarce resources for the future.  That’s why we have to make a strong business case for continued investment in NextGen and show the real value it will deliver to the American people.

I think we have the right data, the right answers, and the right road map.  Are we telling the right story?  And are we telling it at every opportunity?  Do we have the right people rallied behind that story?  I’m not just talking about the aviation community, I’m talking about everyone who will benefit from the job creation and economic growth this system will provide.

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 twenty 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 [National Air Traffic Controllers Association].  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.

It’s encouraging to see so many of those stakeholders here today.  And that’s part of the value of Forums like this – getting the right people together, building strong relationships, and opening the lines of communication.  You have my commitment from Lockheed Martin that we’re ready to do our part to ensure NextGen delivers on its promise.  And I know that, looking around this room, the other leaders with us today are just as committed.

The third step in making NextGen a success is to be adaptive to change when it comes our way.

We’re all grappling with a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the future.  We know there may be some tough choices to be made, particularly if there simply aren’t enough resources to achieve everything in the plan. 

I’m here to tell you that we want to be your partner in the process of responding to change.  We’re ready to do that.  And we need to understand when your priorities change so we can align our efforts accordingly.  We know it’s not going to be easy.  Let’s be honest, though: none of us came to work in this industry because we thought it would be easy. 

Give us a challenge.  We’re ready to roll up our sleeves.  We’re committed to partnering with government, industry, and organizations like RTCA to achieve all three of those goals:

  • Making the business case for the investment in NextGen;
  • Delivering on the promise of new technology; and
  • Adapting to whatever change may come.

Working together I believe this nation can and will achieve the NextGen vision.  Just like Allan Lockheed predicted, flying will indeed have no barriers.

In closing, I’ll share a quick story about how Allan cleared one of his own barriers.

Not long after he made his bold prediction about the future of flight, Allan and his brother Malcolm went to work on their first airplane.  It was a sea-plane and they called it the Model G.  They built it in the garage where they worked as auto mechanics – toiling away on nights and weekends, scraping together parts from wherever they could get them. 

Allan was ambitious.  It wasn’t enough just to build a sea-plane.  He wanted to create the largest one the world had seen.  And he pushed the envelope of innovation.  While most competing designs placed the engine and propellers behind the wings, Allan put his in the nose because he was convinced it would make his plane faster and safer. 

It would have been simpler and easier to set his sights lower – to settle for something less ambitious.  That’s not who Allan was.  He wanted to do something meaningful.  So he steeled his resolve and pressed on.

And 100 years ago this month, on a sunny June day in 1913, Allan and Malcolm ferried their Model G to the San Francisco Bay for its first flight.  Allan pushed the throttle and held his breath as the plane lifted off and started a graceful climb.

It was a moment of elation.  Allan later recalled:  “Malcolm was yelling on the ground and I was yelling in the airplane.  We’d worked two years on that machine and missed some meals to make it.  But it flew and it flew good.”

Aviation history is marked by great moments of triumph like Allan and Malcolm’s first flight.  And its future will be shaped by new moments of triumph built around the arrival of NextGen.  Like all great achievements it won’t be easy.  It will, though, be fundamental to the future of this country.

And if you ask me there’s no more important cause, no more motivating purpose, no more honorable goal, than helping our nation prosper.

My thanks to the RTCA for the opportunity to be with you today.  And thanks to the FAA for their leadership and vision through NextGen.  We’re excited to be your partner in aviation’s next great triumph.

Thank you.

 	  Marillyn A. Hewson, Chief Executive Officer and President

Chief Executive Officer and President Marillyn A. Hewson


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Chief Executive Officer and President Marillyn A. Hewson speaking at the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Annual Symposium