The Need for Templates: An Illustration in the Air

By the twenty-first century the US Federal Aviation Administration had hoped a $32 billion plan to reform air travel, dubbed AERA (Automated En-Route Air Traffic Control) would be up and running. Optimal spacing of airplanes, voice recognition computers, navigation via GPS (global positioning satellites) and direct links between ground and cockpit computers were to be commonplace. This would be a far cry from the FAA that the now-forgiven PATCO air traffic controllers struck during the first Reagan administration, or even the upgraded but still very much First Tier, industrial, FAA of today. For the system to work, the FAA will have to put this new, high-tech wine into fresh Second Tier wineskins instead of just rinsing out the old, musty organizational forms of the past. Frankly, the odds are not good.

The FAA's World War II vintage, First Tier model – Washington's National Airport, for example, still depends on vacuum tubes – links together a series of Civil Servants ranked in boxes, separated into geographic regions, through a vast BLUE governmental pyramid with a few ORANGE perks. The twenty-first century FAA must shift into a flow-state design that can facilitate the movement of many kinds of traffic – both air and ground – through information-rich conduits where territoriality does not fit. Its thinking has to become global instead of regional or even national. The FAA must cut some new Templates. If it is unable to adapt, ...

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