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New FAA Air Traffic Organization to be cost-drivenNew FAA Air Traffic Organization to be cost-driven

The FAA on Tuesday established its new performance-based air traffic organization (ATO) and made clear that its main focus will be on containing costs. "We're passionate about costs," ATO Chief Operating Officer Russell Chew told aviation reporters. The new organization includes among its "business units" air traffic control and separation and flight service station functions.

Chew said the new ATO organization will be service oriented and will listen to and involve the users of the system, or as Chew termed it, the ATO's customers.

"And that's where your association comes in," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA will be there every step of the way, making sure the needs and concerns of general aviation are addressed, whether it's in the day-to-day operations or the long-range projects."

Boyer continued, "Russ Chew learned to fly in a GA aircraft and was very active in GA before going to work for American Airlines. So he knows and understands general aviation. We hope that he won't forget that background as he takes the FAA's existing air traffic infrastructure through this radical change in operating philosophy."

During Tuesday's news conference, Chew outlined the ATO in broad brushstrokes. The new organization is structured much more like private industry. In addition, safety oversight of the new organization will now be conducted by a separate organization within the FAA.

"That's something we've never seen before," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "It treats the ATO like a much more autonomous organization."

"AOPA will be paying close attention to the ATO," said Boyer. "We want to make sure GA continues to have access to the system, that the FAA continues its long-range work to develop new approaches where none currently exist, and that funding for the new organization does not become user-fee-based."

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