NextGen modernization is critical to all segments of aviation and the time to move forward is now, agreed participants in a panel moderated by AOPA President Craig Fuller at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit in Washington, D.C.
In addition to Fuller, who led the discussion, the April 29 panel included Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association; Will Ris, the senior vice president of government affairs for American Airlines; Bill DeCota, director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and Jim May, president of the Air Transport Association.
While the participants represented diverse segments of the aviation community, all agreed that the U.S. aviation system can no longer afford to depend on outdated technology. Several panelists noted that a strong, safe, modern aviation system serves the public good and should be publicly funded. That funding is in jeopardy in the Obama administration’s budget plan, which proposes reducing the general fund contribution to the FAA and implementing some $7 billion a year in user fees.
The challenge now, Fuller and others said, is to help policymakers understand the importance of aviation to the U.S. economy, secure funding, and move quickly to implement advanced technologies.
One important way to gain that understanding is through efforts like GA Serves America and participation in events like the U.S. Chamber Aviation Summit, Fuller told the audience of about 200 conference goers.
Following a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his commitment to moving forward with NextGen, saying that the Obama administration would work with Congress to get the best possible FAA reauthorization bill.
Responding to a question about FAA funding asked by AOPA President Craig Fuller, LaHood noted that “longer is better” when it comes to a reauthorization commitment. AOPA and other aviation organizations have been seeking a four-year funding package that will allow NextGen modernization to move forward quickly, but some lawmakers have expressed interest in developing a shorter two-year package.
LaHood was also asked whether there were plans to include aviation in the multibillion dollar transportation infrastructure bank being developed by the Obama administration. Most of the discussion thus far has focused on $8 billion for high speed rail and using the bank for highways, bridges, transit, and rail.
LaHood said he had not previously heard the idea of including aviation in the infrastructure bank package and indicated he would be open to talking about it.