ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial

American Airlines CEO Seeks New Structure for FAA

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | March 23, 2016
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[Avionics Today 03-23-2016] American Airlines CEO Doug Parker pushed heavily for a separation of the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) from the FAA during his speech at the annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit Tuesday, March 22. Parker's comments came a day after lawmakers approved the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016, sending a four month extension bill to President Barack Obama in place of the long-term FAA Reauthorization bills proposed by the House and Senate in recent weeks. 
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. Photo: American Airlines.
Funding for FAA operations was scheduled to expire March 31, 2016. However, under the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016, funding originally determined in the six-month extension that prevented an FAA shutdown back in September, has been extended through July 15, 2016, while lawmakers search for a long-term solution. 
The bill approved by the House on Monday that extends FAA operations through July does not include the separation of the FAA's role as a regulator from its role as the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) for the United States. During his speech, Parker addressed several factors that he believes to be myths surrounding industry’s perception of House Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Shuster's proposal to create a corporate non-profit entity responsible for managing the nation's air transportation system
H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, introduced by Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo, reauthorizes the FAA while providing a number of reforms to the aviation system.
Under the AIRR Act, a board representing the aviation system’s users and the public interest will govern the federally chartered ATC corporation. According to a statement released by the committee, the comprehensive reauthorization bill would also streamline the FAA’s aviation equipment and aircraft certification processes, provides additional improvements for consumers, addresses aviation safety issues, gives the FAA more tools for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems, and provides for airport infrastructure improvements across the country.
“There is simply nothing radical or unusual about this proposal. More than 50 other nations have moved to this concept in one form or another — some decades ago. And none of them have chosen to reverse course or opted to return to their previous systems,” said Parker. 
The American Airlines CEO also noted that the proposed reform has received public support from the three individuals that served as FAA administrator prior to Michael Huerta's current tenure. He also referenced support for the bill from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) as a key endorsement, since controllers are the largest stakeholders in the debate. 
Parker also directly responded to the strong opposition of the proposal to separate the ATO from federal governing control that has been raised by the business and general aviation community, lead most notably by National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen.
"For the record, we oppose privatization and would oppose the creation of a private, for-profit entity if that were on the table, but it isn’t. The FAA, to ensure the highest degree of safety, would strictly regulate the new entity. The plan on the table is not one to change technology or direction, but rather a plan to assure steady, long-term financing and to lift constraints on moving forward with NextGen more quickly and decisively,” said Parker, who expressed similar ideals alongside other large U.S. airline CEOs during a call with the Airlines for America (A4A) group in December
Although the FAA has completed the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out ground station network, implemented more satellite-based navigation procedures than radar-based procedures and is in the earliest phases of facilitating Controller to Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) operations, Parker believes the program could be moving faster and delivering more immediate and realized flight operational improvements and benefits for airlines if it were controlled by an entity that could facilitate a long-term funding plan, rather than the usual annual reauthorization packages that Congress has been providing the FAA recently. 
“First, if it weren’t so outrageous, I’d be amused by the rhetoric and campaign of the corporate jet lobbyists, which accuses the commercial airlines of plotting to ‘take over’ the air traffic control system through ‘privatization’ in order to drive up the costs to general aviation to squeeze them out,” said Parker.

“The very opposite is true. This is one of the principal reasons we need reform,” Parker said. “Our system certainly is large and complex, but that’s why it has such a huge impact on the nation’s economy and well-being. It is all the more reason we need the resources, the skills, the long-term vision and the agility to move forward with more speed and with greater margins of safety. If we fall behind in developing and implementing Next Generation technology, the impact will be far greater here than in any other nation,” he added. 

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