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Bolen, Other Aviation Leaders Address FAA Funding, NextGen at NATCA Event

March 28, 2014

While aviation has faced challenging times, including last year’s government shutdown and sequestration cuts, these events cannot be allowed to impact the future of funding FAA activities, including continued transition to a Next Generation Air Transportation system (NextGen), NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said during a panel discussion at the National Air Traffic Control Association’s (NATCA’s) Communicating for Safety event on March 26 in Las Vegas, NV.

“We have the largest, most diverse, most complex, most efficient, and safest air transportation system in the world,” Bolen said during the Aviation Industry Leadership Panel, adding NBAA’s Members support that view, especially as they make increasingly more international flights. “They come back and tell us that we have the best system in the world, and it’s getting better.

“But it’s not enough to be the best today,” Bolen continued. “We have to be the best going forward. We’re looking at tight budgets for as far as the eye can see, and we have to do more – and do better – with flat or declining resources. It’s a significant challenge; we have to be careful to not lose what’s good, what’s working.”

Budget Challenges, NextGen and Aviation System Oversight

The other panelists – NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Mark Baker, Regional Airline Association President Roger Cohen, Air Line Pilots Association First Vice President Sean Cassidy and FAA Air Traffic Organization COO Teri Bristol – also weighed in with their assessments.

For example, Bristol called three budget crises – a furlough, the shutdown and the last-minute avoidance of another furlough over the past year – “challenging times, but at the end of the day, we provided a safe NAS [national airspace system].”

Bolen reiterated NBAA’s position on oversight and funding for the National Airspace System: “The airspace belongs to the public, so it ought to be operated for the public benefit, which means it’s okay to ask the public for general funds to operate that system, and it’s okay to ask Congress to provide oversight.”

Bolen said the core of the debate is whether to change the significant foundation of “what we are today, and what we have been since 1903 – the world leader in every aspect of aerospace.” NBAA will “approach the future with an open mind and robust debate,” he continued.

Referencing the world’s other air navigation service providers (ANSPs), they may provide workable models for the governance and structure of the air traffic management, but looking to the next FAA appropriation in 2015, “we need to do a lot of research over the next year and a half,” Bolen said.

Guaranteeing GA Access to Airspace

With safety always being first, any ANSP must balance several factors: safety, cost, efficiency and access. Some achieve balance by limiting access, but both NBAA and NATCA made it clear that in the United States, general aviation (GA) should not be limited.

“GA is the backbone to the economic engine of rural communities and manufacturing,” Rinaldi said. Bolen added that government officials on state, regional and local levels are regular supporters of NBAA’s efforts to preserve GA access to airports and airspace.