June 3, 2016

In comments made during a major aviation policy panel discussion held June 2 in Washington, DC, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen restated the business aviation community’s support for modernizing the National Airspace System and seeking “targeted solutions” to aviation system challenges, which is the approach taken by Senate legislation for reauthorizing the FAA.

The Senate FAA reauthorization measure (H.R. 636), and its counterpart in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4441), were discussed at length during the forum, which was hosted by RTCA, and focused on aviation system modernization as part of the FAA reauthorization debate currently underway in Congress.

Bolen noted that the Senate FAA legislation was passed by a large, bipartisan majority, in contrast to the House bill, which proposes to create a privatized ATC system funded by new user fees and overseen by an airline-dominated board of directors. That bill has not passed the House because the ATC privatization proposal is so controversial.

“We in business aviation strongly support aviation system modernization, and we want to see that priority reflected in an FAA reauthorization bill,” Bolen said. “The good news is, after two-plus years of debate, and numerous committee hearings, we have a pathway forward with the Senate bill. The legislation takes the right approach to FAA reauthorization and modernization by identifying problems and providing smart, targeted solutions.

“By contrast,” Bolen continued, “the House proposal to create a privatized ATC system funded with user fees has raised a host of legitimate concerns about whether the public’s airspace should be turned over to special interests.”

Bolen noted that among the questions raised would be the impact of ATC privatization on the small towns and rural areas that have little or no airline service, and therefore count on general aviation to meet transportation needs and provide essential services.

“There’s a fundamental question of who’s going to make sure the public airspace is run for the benefit of the entire public, including citizens and businesses in communities across America,” Bolen said.

“As we work toward aviation system modernization, we cannot afford to risk being distracted by a harmful debate over ATC privatization, which has the potential to hold up final passage of a meaningful FAA reauthorization bill that lays the groundwork for continued modernization efforts. We don’t want to see that happen.”

Joining Bolen in the panel discussion were Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Mark Baker, Harris Corporation President of Critical Networks Carl D’Alessandro, Delta Airlines Captain Stephen M. Dickson, Government Accountability Office Director of Civil Aviation Issues Gerald L. Dillingham, Airlines for America Senior Vice President of Global Government Affairs Sean Kennedy and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi.

“Our shared aviation community can come together to focus on long-term solutions to identified challenges – that’s what the Senate FAA bill does,” Bolen concluded. “It gets us beyond the status quo, without forcing a binary choice over whether to create a privatized ATC system, funded by user fees and largely overseen by airline interests.

“The Senate legislation will ensure that our system remains the world’s best system five, 10 and 25 years from now, and we will continue support efforts to ensure that its approach is reflected in the final FAA reauthorization bill passed by Congress.”

Photo caption (left to right): NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, Harris Corporation President of Critical Networks Carl D’Alessandro and Delta Airlines Captain Stephen M. Dickson.