The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is playing a prominent role in shaping the way unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will be introduced into the National Airspace System. The Pentagon is already represented on federal interagency and government-industry groups that were formed to facilitate UAS integration with other air traffic in unrestricted airspace. With progress toward that goal lagging and the DOD’s need for airspace access building, the department wants to bring to bear its decades of UAS experience to expedite the process.
National Airspace System
The FAA lowered the boom on airports serving mainly GA, business and regional airline traffic, announcing on March 22 that it will close 149 ATC contract towers as part of its effort to slash spending by more than $600 million in the current fiscal year under the federal government’s “sequester” mandate. The action could spell the end of the agency’s 30-year-old contract tower program.
Across-the-board federal budget cuts scheduled to begin on March 1 will limit the flight-handling capability of the U.S. National Airspace System and could lead to permanent airport and ATC facility closures, warned the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca).
On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood laid out the likely consequences to his department and the FAA of possible automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that are scheduled to start March 1. In the absence of a revised budget deal between the Obama Administration and Congress, he said the FAA is planning $600 million in cuts through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30.
At a White House press conference this morning, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood laid out the likely consequences of possible automatic federal budget cuts, also called sequestration, scheduled to start on March 1, to his department and the U.S. FAA.
The Transportation Trades Dept. of the AFL-CIO union group says the clock is ticking toward a March 1 federal “sequestration” deadline the organization says will imperil the U.S. National Airspace System, with $483 million in cuts to the FAA’s operations budget. Sequestration will entail mandatory furloughs among agency employees, including air traffic controllers, aviation safety inspectors and systems specialists.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) has released a report outlining the effects sequestration will have on the aviation industry, as well as the U.S. economy, if Congress does not act to avert the across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect January 1.
The AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute (ASI) released a new interactive online course focused on unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System. Topics include what unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are and how they operate; their effect on general aviation; how manned and unmanned aircraft can safely share the airspace; and how UASs are operating in the NAS. It was developed in collaboration with the Department of Defense.
After a protracted gestation period, the Senate unanimously passed its FAA reauthorization bill late yesterday, sending it to a conference committee that will reconcile differences with the House version approved last May. General aviation groups cheered the measure, which contains no user fees for GA but modestly raises the federal excise taxes on jet-A and aviation gas that GA pilots pay into the aviation trust fund.
One of the traditional buzz phrases in discussions about improving ATC has been the time-honored “system of systems” that envisions a National Airspace System in which everything meshes together smoothly. It will be some time before the U.S. realizes that vision with NextGen, according to Lockheed Martin’s Tom Dilenno, who spoke at last month’s Air Traffic Control Association Conference.
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