Shuster’s call for Transformational FAA Reauthorization and NextGen Ideas

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Almost a year ago, the bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee made it clear that they were beginning to study the terms of the FAA Reauthorization legislation. At a symposium sponsored by The Hill (see first link below) Chairman Shuster repeated that call. At that same event (see the second link below), the industry made some telling statements which recognized the need to address the massive impending problems, but were short on new ideas.

September 2015 is the deadline and Chairman Shuster made it clear that he was not going to repeat the “rolling delays of the last FAA bill. What do their words signify?

Shuster admitted that the 2009-2012 was an unrepeatable disaster with negative consequences as to the FAA staff and the progress of NextGen. To reauthorize in 2015, he urged the stakeholders to think in “transformational” terms, “bigger and bolder” and “bigger than just a simple reauthorization”. Those instructions could have been an expression of frustration with the T&I 2013 hearing (see first above link) in which industry spokesperson testified about myopic, non-strategic needs of their members. No one articulated a vision that meets the Shuster transformational parameters.

The second story from The Hill relates the views expressed by three speakers at the forum labeled “The Future of Flight” . The point of the program was to look forward and elicit new ideas.

The president of NATCA, at this high level discussion, made the insightful comment that “[m]oney is the issue, but funding is the problem.” He delved into the hardships experienced by his members, but provided no thoughts or suggestions as to how Congress might raise the money.

A Delta Senior Vice President for Flight Operations spoke to the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics input as an Advisory Committee to the FAA NextGen program. His point was that industry had devoted considerable time ostensibly defining its priorities on the FAA’s extensive wish list for this new technology infrastructure. Perhaps his remarks were more extensive, but the article did not mention whether the FAA agreed with the RTCA choices, whether the FAA has made a satisfactory business case for elements of or the entire NextGen passage and whether the schedule is acceptable.

The last speaker was from the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, an organization with a strong inclination to give criticisms of the FAA. He acknowledged that the FAA was listening more attentively to the users and now has a “firmer” sense of their priorities.

Rep, Graves spoke before this panel and indicated that there is a lot of behind the scenes work being done. That’s encouraging.

The reporter’s opening paragraph concludes:

“Despite almost a decade of work creating the Next Generation Air Transportation System, called NextGen, experts say the Federal Aviation Administration system designed to reduce air traffic wait times in the air and on the ground will not realize its full potential without a stable source of funding.”

That allegation of dire consequences should motivate the aviation policy players in Washington to move their perspective from current problems and begin to articulate the answers to the problems articulated by Chairman Shuster.

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