Bolen Opens the Dialogue to Decide What’s Critical to Aviation, What’s Not and What’s in the Interstitial Gray Areas.

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ARTICLE: NBAA: Government Shutdown Highlights Need for Wise Decision-Making on Aviation Spending

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Sequestration and now shutdown have repeated the message that the Government of the past is not likely to return in the near future. That truth, however temporary, must be addressed.

Ed Bolen, NBAA’s CEO and President, called on government leaders and aviation stakeholders to take the initiative to define priorities, to identify aspects which may not be needed and to differentiate what is more important in the gray area which is neither a need nor necessary. That is a demanding agenda.

Such a dialogue will involve the big operators, the OEMs, the pilots, the controllers, the huge corporations that produce the equipment for NextGen, the smaller aviation companies, general and business aviation, airports (which range from massive bubs to small rural facilities) , the mechanics and a whole host of participants. That is a universe of perspective and opinions for which consensus will require perspicacity of views, willingness to accept the good for all rather than the ideal for our segment and some vision of the future.

Mr. Bolen begins the discussion with a few examples of things on which all aviation concerns should focus and build:

  1. Reforming the certification process. New aviation technologies are under development, which have the potential to enhance safety, drive down costs and reduce operators’ environmental footprint. But, in order to get these products to market in a timely manner, changes must be made to the current certification process. The necessary changes were recommended by the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry in 2003, and more recently, in legislation to streamline equipment certification (commonly known as the “Small Aircraft Revitalization Act”) which, according to FAA officials, has the potential to double safety at half the cost.
  2. Establishing a process for consolidating facilities in accordance with Section 804 of the FAA reauthorization bill. Section 804 of the FAA reauthorization bill, which was signed into law last year, directs the FAA to come forward with a business plan for reviewing facilities with an eye toward needed realignments, consolidations and/or maintenance plans. It also establishes a process for such a review, which includes representation by air traffic controllers, industry stakeholders and the public.
  3. Prioritizing “NextGen” projects. As part of the FAA’s work to develop the plans and technology for replacing the nation’s existing radar-based aviation system with a next-generation (NextGen) system based on satellite technology, agency officials asked a federal advisory committee to prioritize NextGen projects – a task the committee has completed, and which provides a roadmap for transitioning to NextGen in an efficient, logical and cost-effective manner.

This is not the sort of process for which APA notices and Sunshine rules would likely be applied; the debate might harm the compromises that will lead to consensus. Thus, what happens next may not feed the press. The future of aviation depends on this aviation “convention”; it is clear (remember sequestration and shutdown) that the private sector must make the hard decisions.

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