Editor's Note

What Will Chao Confirmation Mean for FAA?

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | January 31, 2017
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The U.S. Senate confirmed Elaine Chao as secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation in a 93-to-6 vote on Tuesday Jan. 31, 2017. 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

President Donald Trump nominated Chao for the position at the end of November, and Chao faced a Senate committee hearing earlier this month.

Chao will face a host of issues in her new appointment. The biggest issue concerning the aviation industry for Chao will be consideration for a new structure for the FAA. Over the last two years, lawmakers have considered legislation that would separate the agency’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) from its role as the U.S. aviation safety regulator

Aviation industry advocacy groups such as the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) have heavily opposed such a restructuring of the FAA because of the airspace user fees that would likely come with it. Others, such as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and Airlines for America (A4A) are heavily in favor of a restructuring of the FAA, as they believe the new structure would provide more reliable long-term funding for operating and modernizing the nation’s air traffic system. 

When questioned about the possibility of restructuring the FAA during her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, Chao steered clear of favoring or opposing a new structure. “It’s obviously a major issue. The administration has not made a decision on this point. I am open to all ideas,” she said.

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