ATC Reform: As sides are drawn, AIA adds concrete content

atc reform aia reauthorization
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ATC Reform

AIA creates concrete examples to make Reauthorization, if not ATC Reform, WORK.

The President yesterday issued his Principles for Reforming the Air Traffic Control system. Here are the major headings of his paper:

• Open Access: All users, including the general aviation industry and emerging new entrants, must have open access to our Nation’s airspace.

• Rural Access: The new entity must maintain access and services to rural communities and general aviation users.

• Military Access

• Noise: Efficient use of the airspace requires new technology and efficient air routes. The new ATC entity must have the authority, after seeking public comment, to adjust airspace routes. The proposed route change would only be subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review if the change exceeds the FAA-established noise threshold. The FAA would still be responsible for ensuring—within a reasonable period of time, like 120 days—that any proposed route change does not create a safety hazard.

• New Entity: America’s growing aviation system demands a new, independent, non-government organization to operate our Nation’s airspace. The new entity should have access to capital markets in order to spur capital investment, technology adoption, and innovation faster, more effectively, and securely. Over the last 20 years, more than 50 countries have already successfully transitioned their ATC operations.

• Transition Period: The transfer of ATC operations from the FAA to the new entity should be completed within an established 3-year transition period overseen by the Secretary of Transportation.

• Not-For-Profit Entity: The new ATC entity should be a not-for-profit, non-governmental entity.

• Fees: The new ATC entity should be financially self-sufficient through the collection of user fees that cover both its costs of operations and recapitalization. The aviation taxes that currently cover these costs should be sunset, except for those necessary to…. Users should have input in the fees and their structure, which should be guided by ICAO principles and be consistent with the international obligations of the United States…. To ensure that rates are just and reasonable, however, users should have the ability to request review by the Secretary of Transportation, rather than the Congress. Any determination by the Secretary of Transportation should be final.

• Financial Authority: The new ATC entity should have the authority to borrow funds and enter into contracts, leases, and other arrangements during and after the transition period.

• Assets: All assets currently owned by the FAA and used in the operation of ATC should be transferred, at no charge, to the new ATC entity.

• Governance: A professional Board of Directors should manage the new ATC. The members of the Board should have a fiduciary responsibility solely to the new ATC entity and be free of any financial conflict of interest. Board seats should not be reserved for any entity, except for the ATC entity’s Chief Executive Officer, who would serve as a representative of the new entity. The new entity should represent all users impartially, and no group should have even the appearance of influence over the Board. The Board should ensure that DoD and national-security equities are adequately represented and that the entity maintains appropriate relationships with national and international air navigation service providers and forums. To establish the initial Board, the Secretary of Transportation should select eight members from candidate lists provided by five nominating groups. The nominating groups should be airlines, unions, general aviation, airports, and the Department of Transportation. Each nominating group would provide lists of six to ten qualified persons to the Secretary.

  • United States-based carriers with annual revenues greater than $10 billion should develop the airline list.
  • Unions representing at least 50 percent of FAA employees that would transfer to the new ATC entity or representing more than 10,000 United States commercial pilots should develop the union list.
  • The two largest trade groups representing general aviation (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association [AOPA] and National Business Aviation Association [NBAA]), should jointly develop the general aviation list.
  • The two largest trade groups representing United States airports (Airports Council International – North America [ACI-NA] and American Association of Airport Executives [AAAE]), should develop the airport list.

Two members should be selected from the airline list, two members should be selected from the union list, one member should be selected from the general aviation list, one member should be selected from the airport list, and two members should be selected from the Department of Transportation list. Those eight initial Board members would then select a Chief Executive Officer. Those nine Board members would then select four independent Board members. The 13-member Board would be constituted for at least the transition period, plus the first year of operation. After this time, decisions about Board constitution and members’ terms should be left to the discretion of the Board. Once the initial Board members are nominated, no group should have an exclusive right to name successor Board members.

• Labor: The new ATC entity should honor existing labor agreements.

• Spectrum: The new ATC entity should not be charged for its use of spectrum, as the FAA is not charged for spectrum use today.

aviation innovation reform and reauthorization

Chairman Shuster, last year, introduced his Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act H.R. 4144. Ranking Members DeFazio and Larsen have submitted H.R. 2800— The Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2017, which is summarized as follows:

  • The bill provides a stable, predictable funding stream for aviation programs by taking the Airport and Airway Trust Fund off budget, and it institutes Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) procurement and personnel reform.
  • The bill takes the Airport and Airway Trust Fund off budget and ensures that the revenues collected from flying passengers (e.g., ticket taxes) are invested in the aviation system.
  • The bill requires top-to-bottom reforms of the FAA’s personnel and procurement systems. 
  • The bill elevates the role of the FAA Management Advisory Council (MAC), a government-industry panel that advises the FAA Administrator on strategic issues facing the FAA. 
  • The bill removes bureaucratic barriers within the FAA.
  • The bill authorizes funds to rebuild and modernize aging air traffic control facilities across the United States.

In the face of ambiguous principles and the 2016 AIRR, much of the commentary from industry (other than A4A which is fully supportive) has been negative and equally lacking in specific solutions.

aia aerospace industries assocation atc reformKudos to the Aerospace Industries Association, rather than just say no, this group submitted things which from the expert perspective as the manufacturers of airplanes and developer of much of the ATC system. Here are AIA’s suggestions for what is needed:

  • Provide a budgeting and funding process that gives long-term visibility, stability and predictability to ATC operations, capital funding, and the development and application of NextGen technologies.
  • Ensure the FAA’s ability to maintain its critical aircraft certification and safety oversight missions as well as to enhance its certification process.
  • Enable safe and timely integration of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System.

Should the reauthorization include ATC reform, the following additional objectives should be achieved:

  • An effective governance structure and capital decision-making process that includes participation of key stakeholders, including equipment manufacturers and firms with air traffic management development and manufacturing expertise in NextGen technologies and systems.
  • A streamlined acquisition process that reduces the time from concept to implementation so that technology does not become obsolete before it is implemented.
  • Ensure that ATC reform does not result in:
    • User fees, increased costs, schedule risks, or other performance issues for the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service or any associated support activities;
    • Business aviation and general aviation user fees for airspace access or cost increases since they would disproportionately impact those aviation sectors; or
    • Reduced access or service to rural and underserved areas.
  • Ensure that the ATC reform does not adversely affect U.S. international harmonization activities in either aviation safety or ATC modernization.

The pundits have criticized Congress for its inability to enact significant legislation. The history of FAA Reauthorization includes more than a few instances when the date on which the FAA would literally become impotent (all of its statutory powers would expire). Their ideocratic ideologies rarely are based on philosophy—major premises supported by minor. If the legislators could explain the foundation of their opinions in constructive fashion, such expositions by both sides of the aisles might define points upon which the opponents might agree.

The AIA explanation of its position creates a menu of concrete examples of what is needed to make the Reauthorization, if not ATC Reform, WORK.

Most Senators and Representatives have little knowledge of how the FAA works, what it needs to meet its mission or what is really wrong. Well-considered, specific language from all aviation perspectives is essential to Congress’ passage of a realistic FAA bill.

Good job AIA!!!


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