The current funding mechanism for the nation’s air traffic control system is unacceptable and NATCA is exploring alternative funding models in order to maintain and advance the system’s safety and efficiency, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi testified Tuesday before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. Rinaldi delivered his remarks during a hearing about the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization process and options for FAA air traffic control reform.
Rinaldi’s testimony outlined existing problems at the FAA including negative impacts on the National Airspace System (NAS) as a result of an unpredictable funding stream. He explained that these impacts have driven NATCA, along with stakeholders, think tanks, and others to explore ways to fix the problem, which harms the economy and impact jobs.
“NATCA looks forward to working with Congress and other stakeholders to determine a solution that protects air traffic control and secures it for future growth,” said Rinaldi. “But before we can support any change, we must carefully examine all of the specifics. No system is like the United States’ and no model used elsewhere in the world is perfect, much less for a system as large, complicated, and diverse as ours.”
NATCA laid out the following principles for any reform:
1. Safety and efficiency remain the mission;
2. Stable, predictable funding to adequately support air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure;
3. Robust and continued growth in the aviation system; and,
4. A dynamic aviation system that continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community, Sent from my iPhone commercial passenger carriers and cargo haulers, to business jets, to general aviation, from the major airports to those in rural America.
Rinaldi also provided members of the subcommittee with an overview of alternative funding and structural models that could address the existing funding problem. He provided key points on the potential models that have been discussed for the FAA and the effects these changes would have on air traffic control.
Rinaldi made clear, however, that NATCA believes the U.S. must have a mission-driven model and that the organization opposes any model that derives profit from air traffic control services. He emphasized that NATCA cannot endorse a particular system without knowing all of the details and ensuring a seamless transition.
Read Rinaldi’s complete testimony.
Other highlights from Rinaldi’s testimony include:
-“More than 70,000 flights and over two million passengers are handled daily by air traffic controllers in the busiest and most complex airspace in the world, with roughly 5,000 planes in the sky at any given moment. Domestic airlines served an estimated 756.3 million passengers in 2014… The NAS is an integral part of our national infrastructure and an essential driver of our economy. Every day millions of individuals and businesses in the U.S. economy rely on the services provided by a complex web of aviation routes. Aviation drives nearly 12 million jobs that contribute $1.5 trillion to the nation's gross domestic product.”
-“The lack of stable, predicable funding has led to serious problems at the FAA. We have all seen these issues, which have been especially serious over the last four years. We believe that problems for FAA are not caused by the failure of Congressional appropriators to provide proper funding to the system, rather they result from a process where funding is affected by short-term funding bills, government shutdowns, partial FAA shutdowns, threatened government-wide and FAA specific shutdowns, sequestration, and 23 authorization extensions to name a few.”
-“NATCA believes that the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill must address the lack of a predictable, stable funding stream for what is a continuous operational system focused on safety. We understand that addressing the stop-and-go funding problems may lead to an examination of potential structural changes for the FAA. Any such structural change must be carefully examined to prevent unintended consequences from negatively affecting other aspects of the system. NATCA’s priority is to ensure that we continue to safeguard the world’s best air traffic control system during any transition, and that any potential change addresses the funding issue.”
-“Safety and efficiency are our first priorities and any proposed changes cannot jeopardize these priorities. The United States leads the world in aviation and we must continue to do so.”