John D. Rockefeller, IVSenator
I would like to welcome everyone here today, and express my regret for not being in attendance. I also want to thank Senator Dorgan for his tremendous leadership and I applaud him for holding this important subcommittee hearing.
I strongly believe that modernizing our nation’s archaic air traffic control system should be the FAA’s highest priority and I appreciate the many stakeholders who have come to the Committee to testify today. Many of the challenges facing the aviation industry will only be solved when we work together to make changes for the good of the entire airspace system and the millions of travelers who rely on this service.
It is 2009 and our nation’s aviation system is incredibly outdated. Nowhere is this more apparent than our antiquated air traffic control system. As I have said before, this is simply unacceptable.
I am deeply committed to implementing Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen), a satellite-based navigation and air traffic management system. NextGen will address the long ignored safety and economic shortcomings in civil aviation while fully integrating national defense and homeland security improvements. Moving to a satellite- based system represents a fundamental shift from our current system that has been in place since the 1950s.
Modernization of Air Traffic Control (ATC) will fundamentally transform the way we travel. More efficient use of airspace will cut costs for everyday fliers, while also accommodating millions of additional passengers with less congestion and fewer delays. It is imperative that we take this opportunity to reauthorize the FAA to make certain NextGen is adequately funded for implementing key programs.
Modernization is also absolutely critical in keeping America competitive, improving our economy, and providing billions of dollars in increased productivity to U.S. companies. Air carriers will see fuel costs reduced, more communities will have access to uncongested hubs, and more companies will be able to operate efficiently in these challenging economic times.
It goes without saying that safety is always the paramount goal in aviation. With a serious investment in NextGen, we can make the air traffic system significantly safer through modern tracking technology for controllers on the ground and pilots in the sky.
Reauthorization legislation must also address concerns regarding FAA’s oversight of airline maintenance operations and troubling trends in runway incursions and operational errors. As part of this commitment to safety, we are looking to develop a comprehensive package that will address the multiple issues raised by aviation experts and government agencies.
In closing I want to reiterate that we have the unique opportunity right now to make sure the FAA makes the necessary changes in our aviation system that Americans need. Congress and industry stakeholders must take the steps needed to ensure vigorous oversight of the modernization process.
And most importantly to my great state of West Virginia I want to highlight - unless we move forward with NextGen quickly we will continue seeing congestion and delay in a system that inhibits commerce rather than fostering economic activity so vital to our communities. This is particularly true for small and rural communities, who can’t be left behind by the forces of deregulation. A true aviation system must connect the entire country together, not just our largest cities.
I look forward to hearing the views of all the stakeholders here today and working with all of you to develop real and workable solutions. 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
MAY 13, 2009
We have a tremendous opportunity over the next few months to make great strides toward modernizing our air traffic control system and putting the FAA on the right path, and I look forward to working with you on that goal. We have an opportunity to directly impact and accelerate the FAA’s air traffic control modernization efforts. While the FAA has been moving in the right direction, Congress needs to provide further clarification on what we expect in the short-term.
While sound long-term planning is still an important cog in the overall process, it is time for the FAA to effectively and efficiently start implementing NextGen. We need to start seeing the development of programs and projects that provide specific benefits and efficiencies to the users of the system. We cannot expect stakeholders to support NextGen and the investment necessary if the FAA cannot demonstrate the benefits of modernization.
Our air traffic facilities need to be upgraded. While airspace projects are sometimes more difficult to understand and less tangible than highway or rail projects, they are no less important and deserve a significant amount of attention. As this Committee knows, Chairman Rockefeller and I worked together on an amendment to the stimulus bill that would have accelerated NextGen developments and procedures 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.
However, in order to pass an FAA Reauthorization bill this year, we are going to need a lot of cooperation and understanding from the aviation community, the Administration, and Congress. As exhibited by the process last year, this bill cannot carry or be the vehicle for controversial provisions.
Passing an FAA bill should be a priority for this Congress. This is a fragile process and Congress should focus on safety improvements and NextGen acceleration and not get bogged down with issues that could ultimately lead to the challenges we faced last Congress.
Witness Panel 1
Chip BarclayPresidentAmerican Association of Airport Executives
Marion BlakeyPresident and Chief Executive OfficerAerospace Industries Association
Mr. Jim MayPresident and Chief Executive OfficerAir Transport Association of America
Edward M. BolenPresident and Chief Executive OfficerNational Business Aviation Association
Witness Panel 2
Patrick ForreyPresidentNational Air Traffic Controllers Association
Captain John PraterPresidentAirline Pilots Association International
Robert Roach Jr.General Vice President - TransportationThe International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Ken HallVice President at LargeInternational Brotherhood of Teamsters
Tom BrantleyPresidentProfessional Aviation Safety Specialists
William McGlashenExecutive Assistant to the International PresidentAssociation of Flight Attendants – CWA, AFL – CIO