RECOGNIZING THAT IT IS NOT THEIR AIRSPACE, THE FAA CREATES A MECHANISM FOR THE PUBLIC TO BE HEARD ON THE TRANSITION FROM A VOR TO A GPS AIR NAVIGATION SYSTEM

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ARTICLE: FAA Responds To Users On Future Navigation System

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The actions of the Administrator are driven by the Federal Aviation Act and Congress has articulated its policy guidance as to the use of the navigable airspace in 49 USC § 40103 (a)(1)(2). Subsection (1) makes it clear that

  • The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.

While the next subsection reserves to the public the following:

  • A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.

These two principles create tension—the Government has sovereign control of the airspace, but the flying public has the right of transit. Read together, these subsections say that the FAA “owns” the airspace, but does so in trust for the benefit of the civilian users.

The FAA’s announcement is recognition of these two subsections—the establishment of an advisory committee composed of users to assist the agency in the transition from a VOR network to a GPS system. While the federal government is the architect/engineer of the NextGen plan, the pilots have unique perspectives as to the need for ground based equipment, the cost of adding the new avionics and the speed with which the new regime can practically be accomplished.

The timing of the creation of this group is important; the FAA has yet to specify the VORs to be decommissioned or to establish a schedule for this discontinuance. In order to do so, they will have to set up a list of the navaids of a permanent minimum operational network in the event of GPS outages. These are practical concerns for which users will have important insights.

Advisory committees are great mechanisms for the public to convey critical opinions to the government which, in turn, theoretically they implement. Having created this means of the public’s ability to communicate, it is important that the FAA listen carefully.

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