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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lawmakers Delay Action on FAA Reauthorization Bill

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Avionics Today 07-08-2015] The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced its decision to delay the release of the proposed FAA reauthorization legislation. On July 1, the committee announced they were informed by the House majority leader that consideration of the FAA reauthorization bill, which would have a profound impact on the future structure of the FAA, will be moved until Sept. 30. 
Under a proposed bill from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the U.S. Air Traffic Control system would be managed by a separate organization, independent of the FAA and federal government control. Photo: FAA.
Over the last few months, several congressional hearings have outlined proposals for the bill, which would reconfigure the management of the U.S. Air Traffic Control (ATC) system under a new independent entity, while keeping the FAA's role as a safety regulator issuing aircraft certifications in place. The bill would ultimately also have a huge impact on the continued deployment of air traffic infrastructure, flight procedures, and technologies under the continued rollout of the FAA's NextGen program. 
During a recent speech at the Aero Club of Washington, Bill Shuster, chairman of the committee on transportation and infrastructure, outlined his support of creating an independent Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) in the U.S. The proposed configuration would reflect the aviation regulatory and air traffic management structure of Canada and most countries in Europe and the Asia Pacific regions. 
"Everyone here is familiar with the federal government’s decades-long effort to modernize the system. Everyone here also knows those efforts aren’t working. Only 5 of 76 stakeholders GAO talked to said FAA is capable of implementing NextGen. Taxpayers and stakeholders have spent billions, but there’s no end in sight. And NextGen is only FAA’s most recent effort – Verizon has had four network upgrades since FAA began NextGen," said Shuster. He also noted that in the last 20 years, 50 other countries have successfully separated out their ATC service. 
"In virtually every place this has been done, safety levels have been maintained or improved, ATC systems have been modernized, service has been improved, and costs have been generally reduced. After examining various models, I believe we need to establish a federally chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize our ATC services," he added. 
The proposed corporation would be managed by a board of aviation system users, funded by user fees, and would prioritize the maintenance of the day to day functioning of the ATC system while prioritizing NextGen implementation, according to an outline of the bill released by Shuster. 
Two sectors of aviation, commercial airlines and business aviation, have expressed conflicting views of the bill. Airlines for America (A4A), with the exception of member carrier Delta Airlines, has expressed strong support for creating a separate entity to manage the ATC system and the continued deployment of NextGen. However, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has launched a "Call to Action" asking its members to oppose ATC privatization. NBAA CEO Ed Bolen has referenced the reality that, in other countries that feature ANSPs separated from their civil aviation regulatory agencies, business aviation operational communities have problems with access to airspace. 
“We have clearly communicated our opposition to a privatized ATC system funded with user fees in the weeks since our industry was first made aware that such provisions might be included in an FAA reauthorization bill," Bolen said in a statement after NBAA learned of the decision to postpone action on the bill. “This latest development provides additional time for NBAA, its members and other General Aviation (GA) stakeholders to continue making Congress aware of our concern over such proposals.”
The current FAA reauthorization will expire Sept. 30. The most recent FAA reauthorization was enacted following 23 consecutive short-term extensions that occurred between 2007 and 2012.


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