WASHINGTON–Senior air-safety regulators called on industry groups to develop a consensus position about revamping the U.S. air-traffic control system, focusing less on potential benefits to individual companies or segments.
In separate speeches to a global aviation symposium here, Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta and Ed Bolton, the official in charge of the agency’s NextGen modernization initiative, criticized some industry associations for shortsighted thinking about the issue.
While neither official supported growing calls to spin off the FAA’s traffic control network and its thousands of controllers into a separate entity, the presentations were the strongest sign yet of their apparent frustration that continuing industry bickering could impede efforts to get any reauthorization bill through Congress by the fall.
At a minimum, the FAA wants legislation that would ensure long-term funding stability to carry out NextGen improvements.
But Mr. Huerta said “I don’t think any of us know at this point” what lawmakers will do.
The speeches didn’t identify specific companies or groups. Mr. Huerta indicated that turning the traffic control system into a privatized entity–a move championed by the airline industry’s major Washington lobbying group–by itself wouldn’t address underlying safety issues or potential dangers from unintended consequences.
Emphasizing the “strongly held points of view from different segments of the industry,” such as private pilots and carriers, the FAA chief said it is important for “the industry (to) be able to use some sort of process” to achieve “a broader consensus than we have been able to achieve in the past.”
The only way to achieve broader industry goals of modernizing the traffic control system, according to Mr. Huerta, is to present Congress with a unified industry position.
Mr. Bolton later told the conference that industry groups should avoid becoming “partisan” about anticipated benefits, by avoiding asking only “what does it do for me?”