John D. Rockefeller, IVSenator
Opening Statement – John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman
I want to thank Senator Dorgan for agreeing to Chair the Aviation Subcommittee. I hope you will enjoy chairing the Subcommittee as much as Senator Hutchison and I have over the years.
The aviation industry will be well served by Senator Dorgan’s leadership on this Subcommittee.
Senator Hutchison and I look forward to working with Senators Dorgan and DeMint on producing legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Safety is always the paramount concern in the aviation industry, and modernizing the air traffic control (ATC) system will significantly increase the level of safety in the U.S. airspace system.
Senator Dorgan’s first hearing as the Aviation Chairman focuses on the most critical challenge facing the aviation system – making sure FAA has the ability to develop and implement the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen). I know he shares my commitment to meeting this challenge.
I strongly believe that modernizing our nation’s embarrassingly obsolete air traffic control system is the FAA’s highest priority, and the efforts to reauthorize should reflect this.
Everyone knows of my passion to move the U.S. past Mongolia in the ranking of air traffic control systems, and I’d like to make just a few very brief remarks on this issue.
The development of NextGen is not just a technology project that would be good to do. It is not just some computer upgrade project. I wish it was just that easy or simple.
NextGen is a multi-year, multi-billion dollar effort to fundamentally transform the way we move tens of thousands of aircraft, millions of people, and millions of tons of goods around the country every day.
For too long, we have focused on the technology of the system. We’ve become too focused on acronyms like SWIM and ADS-B, rather than the benefits that all Americans will enjoy by building a satellite-based system with digital communications.
For me, Next Gen is not about technology – it’s about people, it’s about our aviation industry, it’s about small communities being able to connect to the national aviation system, and fundamentally, it’s about our ability to compete in a global economy.
The challenge that I want to pose to the witnesses today and to the aviation industry is to find a way to work together to make this happen.
Rivalries in the aviation community have hampered the industry’s ability to speak with one voice for far too long. Without that one voice, you will fail.
We cannot afford to fail.
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON,
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING ON FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: NEXTGEN AND THE BENEFITS OF MODERNIZATION
MARCH 25, 2009
Thank you Sen. Dorgan, I would like to welcome both you and Sen. DeMint to your new positions as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aviation Subcommittee. I look forward to working with both of you as we move forward with the FAA Reauthorization process. I am especially hopeful we can continue to move forward in a bipartisan manner and develop a consensus bill we can all strongly support.
I am also pleased we are starting out the FAA Reauthorization process and discussing the importance and benefits of the Next Generation Air Transportation System or “NextGen”.
I believe that NextGen should be the centerpiece of our FAA proposal. We need to give the agency the tools and resources it needs to make NextGen a reality.
I am very concerned that when the economy rebounds, the air traffic control system will not be able to handle the accompanying rebound in air travel.
The investments needed for NextGen are exactly the type of infrastructure projects our country needs to create jobs and opportunities that will last not just for a few years, but for a few decades.
We have a very complex aviation system that calls for a sophisticated and well organized solution. The benefits of increased efficiency and expanded capacity, along with critical safety enhancements and a reduction of the overall industry environmental footprint should be enough of a “carrot” to entice interest and support for the effort.
The FAA is moving away from planning phases and towards implementation of NextGen technologies. We know what we can, and need to do, in the short-term; so let’s put the infrastructure in place.
The industry can then follow suit and complete the transition. Chairman Rockefeller and I had an amendment to the stimulus bill that accelerated the deployment of ADS-B ground stations by two years and accelerated the use of precision approaches across the country.
That amendment ultimately was not accepted into the final package, but it was a move in the right direction and a signal that we are serious about improving this system. This hearing is also important because the FAA is starting a new era of modernization with NextGen.
The FAA, unfortunately, has a long history of mishandling long-term capital projects, but as we move into the implementation phase of NextGen, the FAA has a tremendous opportunity to change that reputation.
The FAA will need help though.If industry is serious about NextGen then they need to coalesce behind the idea and they need to help find solutions.
I look forward to starting that process today.I welcome our panel and look forward to the testimony.
Witness Panel 1
Dale WrightDirector of Safety & TechnologyNational Air Traffic Controllers
T. K. KallenbachVice PresidentHoneywell
Joe KolshakSenior Vice President of OperationsUnited Airlines
Henry P. KrakowskiChief Operating OfficerAir Traffic Organization, Federal Aviation Administration