National Journal Asks Important Questions about NextGen

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ARTICLE: FAA’s High-Tech Next Steps

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On the occasion of Administrator Huerta’s confirmation, Ms. Johnson posed a question, open to industry, as to what the Administrator needs to set as priorities for his 5 year term. This challenge to industry is similar to the request of the associations as to what programs should be protected or subject to the fiscal knife of Sequestration. The National Journal inquiry has, after 4 days, drawn three responses.

Greg Principato, President of ACI, created a new category within NextGen, which he called “NowGen.” He says that this class of ATC projects has been identified through two collaborative processes—RTCA Task Force 5 and the NextGen Advisory Committee—and the Administrator should listen carefully to those opinions. Not surprisingly, this executive of an airports advocacy group also claims that FAA dollars must be spent on aging airport infrastructure.

Another reply came from A4A’s Nicholas Calio points to the recommendations of the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee, which urged the FAA to deploy first the most cost-beneficial elements, like Performance Based Navigation. Beyond that, he asks Mr. Huerta to listen to the advice of the stakeholders. Mr. Calio initiated a call for the Administration of a National Airline Policy. Even though the Administrator has only input to such a broad statement of economic, tax and international issues, A4A used this forum to reiterate its primary goal.

Largest in terms of members, AOPA credits Huerta’s reliance on collaborative process and also points to the support provided by FAA’s consultants – MITRE and RTCA. Craig Fuller, the association’s President, flags the divisive question of how NextGen will be paid for. He praises the new Administrator for innovative initiatives, which Mr. Huerta started, designed to address the problems of AvGas and small aircraft certification.

Ms. Johnson should be commended for causing this first iteration of expressing aviation priorities. Recent legislative deadlocks on reauthorization and FAA appropriations are good evidence that Congress has little capability to make tough policy calls with a divided aviation industry.

Public forums, like this National Journal site, are not an appropriate place to debate, refine differences and develop consensus. Without some leadership and without some level of concurrence as to how the private sector will pay for NextGen, the funding for this massive infrastructure will languish. It may require outside-of-the-box thinking to get there and it will require a lot of energy.

Hopefully, someone, somewhere has already started the dialogue.

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