Senator Hutchison: FAA Reauthorization Should Focus on Safety and Next Generation Air Traffic Control

May 13, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today during an Aviation Subcommittee hearing said legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should focus on improving air safety and implementing the nation’s next generation air traffic control system.

“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.”

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