Representing the business aviation community on a panel with fellow aviation advocates, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen on March 13 repeated his call for federal policies that support the industry as a primary source for America’s competitive leadership in the world. “Ours is a great industry,” Bolen told the audience of aviation-policy leaders. “We create jobs, we are the world’s leader in aerospace technology; we contribute exports; and we move people and cargo around the world.”
Bolen’s comments came during a panel at the Federal Aerospace Forecast Conference focused on the next FAA reauthorization. The conference was held in Washington, DC, and hosted by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). “We have the world’s safest and most efficient air transportation system,” Bolen continued. “We should support it and defend it. We should reject policies that burden the industry with unnecessary costs, like the $100 per-flight user fee in President Obama’s most recent budget proposal.
“We frankly think the Administration’s user fee proposal is bad policy, and would negatively impact an industry that provides over a million good jobs, serves communities nationwide, and enables thousands of small to mid-size companies to be successful in a tough economy.”
Bolen, and leaders from the aerospace, airports and the airline sectors, agreed that funding uncertainty, driven in part by 23 budget extensions over five years before Congress finally completed an FAA reauthorization in 2012, has only added to the challenge of funding FAA programs.
“Last year’s budget battles, which led to sequestration and furloughs for air traffic controllers, created even more disruptions and distractions,” Bolen pointed out. “Hopefully, having been through all of this is an incentive for getting to a longer-term FAA reauthorization this time.”
Joining Bolen on the panel were Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of AAAE; Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association and Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy, Airlines for America.
Bolen reiterated several points he made in an earlier House Aviation Subcommittee hearing on the state of U.S. aviation, held in December 2013. He said that as lawmakers look to what should follow the current FAA-enabling legislation, which expires in September 2015, they should continue stable and consistent general fund support for the national aviation system, preserve general aviation’s contribution to the system using the efficient fuel tax, and maintain congressional oversight of funding the system.
“The FAA needs to perform its mission effectively in a time of budget constraint, which means continuing to work on finding efficiencies, streamlining the certification process, and prioritizing NextGen air traffic control (ATC) management improvements,” he said.
Bolen noted there is “unanimity that simply maintaining the status quo is not a good long-term plan,” but that ideas such as following a Canadian model are not scalable, and may not work for an aviation system as large and complex as the one in the U.S. “Canada’s system is one-tenth the size of the U.S., and considerably less complex,” he said.
By way of illustration, he said, “It is unlikely that a large aerospace corporation would scrap its policies and procedures and replace them with those followed by a relatively small machine shop.” The same challenges, he said, are found when comparing the U.S. system with those in New Zealand, Australia, or the U.K.
“Ours is the largest, safest, most effective and diverse aviation system in the world,” Bolen said. “Our challenge as we look toward FAA reauthorization is to figure out what we can do differently to stay the world’s leader in aviation.”