What's the good news at the Federal Aviation Administration? Why must we remain vigilant? Dave Higdon reflects on a week of good news for all of aviation, but adds a cautionary note...
Could you imagine a Chief Pilot receiving orders from his boss to add a new aircraft to the company fleet – but with only the first year or two budgeted for its operation? Neither can we.
It’s an impossible situation. How would the Chief Pilot plan for operating, upkeep and maintenance without a long-term budget?
And yet that absurd scenario parallels what Congress has inflicted on the FAA for several years. Congress has been offering either short-term budgets or extensions of old, out-of-date budgets, neither of which allow for growth or progress. Until now, that is...
Great News for FAA & BizAv
To that end, last week produced two pieces of good news for the FAA and subsequently Business Aviation…
First: Overwhelming public response killed a back-door attempt to slip in a step toward privatization of the Air Traffic Service. (The sponsor tried to accomplish in the dark of night what he failed to do in the light of day.)
Second: A day later the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the full five-year reauthorization of the FAA, H.R. 4; only 13 votes opposed.
With Senate passage of S. 1405 and the President's signature, the FAA will at last enjoy the benefits of a long-term budget to help it accomplish its long-term projects, including completing NextGen; transitioning to ADS-B-based air traffic surveillance; dealing with issues such as controller shortages; and addressing some necessary infrastructure improvements.
An Accomplishment Years in the Making
This news matters to Business Aviation because, like commercial and General Aviation, all of segments depends on the health, viability and progress of FAA programs.
“We are pleased to see this legislation pass the House,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, who added that of equal importance is language in the bill to modernize, not privatize, air traffic control. “We are grateful that members of Congress heard their constituents’ concerns about ATC privatization.”
“The NATA welcomes passage of bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the FAA and provide the agency with long-term funding and stability to continue modernizing our nation’s air traffic control system,” added association president Martin Hiller.
Not since 2012 has the FAA had a long-term reauthorization. The House action sets the stage for the Senate to act on its version - The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017 - and gives ample time to pass a final bill before the current short-term FAA budget extension expires on September 30.
Still, diligence remains necessary to prevent any other sneak attacks on Air Traffic Control. It's not over until a final bill gets signed into law – something that can't happen too soon.
It's difficult to trust that someone won't again try to slip something past us, given that the rules allow such hi-jinx. But last week's underhanded effort brought us back to full alert – and we all ought to be watching.
Now, imagine the progress possible with a stable, predictable budget for the FAA...