April 8, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – As aviation industry experts gathered this week for a Spring conference to discuss aviation system policy planning, the business aviation community was well represented in the dialogue.

Leaders from across the aviation community – including representatives from the airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Capitol Hill, the general aviation community and other stakeholders – gathered in downtown Washington on April 6 and 7 for a Spring Symposium hosted by the RTCA, a non-profit organization established to formulate consensus-based solutions to aviation system challenges.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen, who serves as Chairman of the Board of the RTCA’s Board of Directors, moderated a panel at the symposium focusing on an issue that has long been a high priority for NBAA and its Members: building toward a Next Generation (“NextGen”) aviation system, so that it remains the world’s largest, safest and most efficient system.

The business aviation community is unified with the rest of the general aviation community in promoting continued transition to a “NextGen” system, which Congress has been considering as part of the FAA reauthorization process. Recently, NBAA welcomed an FAA reauthorization bill passed by the U.S. Senate that increases the general aviation fuel tax to help fund system modernization.

“The NextGen effort has been underway for several years, and a number of key figures are here today who are responsible for NextGen and its evolution,” Bolen said in opening the RTCA panel discussion. “Over the past year, a lot of time and effort has gone into making those efforts a reality, particularly through the work of the RTCA.”

Bolen noted that, through a special task force, the RTCA had brought together representatives from across the aviation industry, including those from NBAA, to develop agreement over how aviation system upgrades would take shape over the next several years. Through the task force, NBAA and others have continually articulated the unique way general aviation, including business aviation, operates, so that plans to modernize the system address the needs of all aviation system users.

The panel members – which included officials from the Government Accountability Office, the FAA, the Department of Transportation, and staff from the U.S. House and Senate – uniformly agreed that the RTCA task force was key to bringing much-needed consensus to most effective path forward on aviation system modernization.

“We have been working toward modernization of the aviation system for a very long time,” said Bolen. “But at no point in our progress have we seen so much consensus and optimism for finally making NextGen a reality.”

The need for industry consensus to make progress on aviation system modernization was a point Bolen also emphasized earlier in the week when he introduced FAA Administrator J. Randolph (Randy) Babbitt at the event’s keynote luncheon, attended by over 100 policy leaders.

NBAA was also represented in other issue discussions at the RTCA event. Bob Lamond, NBAA’s Director, Air Traffic services and Infrastructure, participated in a panel forum that focused on the progress of aviation system modernization, and what opportunities might be available for accelerating the process.