Delivery of the $40 billion NextGen ATC modernization will likely remain highly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of politics unless those charged with implementing the system work to protect its funding streams, senior industry leaders told the recent Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) conference and exposition.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) wasted no time after the U.S. government’s reopening to highlight the damage it says has been done to the country’s aviation system, reminding users that getting things rolling again may not be as simple as flipping a switch.
At Capitol Hill on Thursday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) was joined by NBAA, ALPA, GAMA, NATA, HAI and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (Pass) in a rally against the government shutdown. Heavy rain, as well as Capitol security, dampened attendance to about 150 people, who were supplied by Natca with matching signage and shirts.
The U.S. government shutdown could have “grave repercussions on the [ATC] system,” Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca), told an October 10 rally. “The furlough of thousands of aviation safety professionals is eliminating critical layers of redundancy and safety that keep the system operating safely and efficiently. The shutdown has also interrupted the flow of hiring, training and innovation,” he said.
Every decade or so, sometimes more often, someone or some organization proposes “privatizing” the U.S. air traffic control system. In 1985 it was the Air Transport Association (ATA), now renamed Airlines for America, which released a study calling for a self-supporting federal ATC corporation.
An August 27 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG) concludes that none of the 49 suggestions related to the hiring and training of new air traffic controllers outlined in the FAA’s independent review panel two years ago have been implemented.
The alphabets are angry. Reflecting the growing frustration of their members, presidents of the trade associations tasked with representing general aviation interests showed up at this year’s EAA AirVenture with both barrels loaded full of criticism for the FAA and for the congressional oversight of the agency. The rhetoric was a marked shift from the traditional message of cooperation with the FAA.
FAA Air Traffic Organization COO David Grizzle plans to step down from his position in December, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca). “Throughout [his] tenure at the ATO, we worked together to strengthen the Natca-FAA collaborative relationship. That has resulted in many successes, from modernization to labor relations, which have helped continue to make our National Airspace System the world’s safest and most efficient,” said Natca president Paul Rinaldi. “We thank David for his contributions.”
Several decades ago there was an advertisement with three elderly ladies in a fast-food joint. They look at a burger and ask, “Where’s the beef?” One panelist at a NextGen symposium hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) International and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) in late June suggested that selling NextGen to the end users may present a similar perception problem. “Where is the hype?” he asked. “I just don’t see the hype.”
Select executives inside the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration are pushing hard to impose user and special fees on general aviation as part of a strategy to bridge the gap between the agency’s expenditures and revenues from its traditional fees and taxes. This includes charging $1- to $2 million for air traffic control and other services at airshows. However, it appears the FAA could reap billions of dollars in cost savings simply by implementing better management and business practices.
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