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"Opinion: A modern aviation system for a modern world"

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A modern aviation system for a modern world
The Newnan (GA) Times-Herald

The 21st Century AIRR Act, which would reauthorize and reform the Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA), is a milestone in good governance. Our 
legislation will refocus the FAA on its essential role of ensuring that our 
airspace - from the aircraft that fly us to the rules governing the pilots who 
fly them - is safe. 

Key provisions in this legislation will cut Washington red tape and streamline 
FAA certification processes to ensure that American entrepreneurs and 
innovators continue to lead a competitive global aerospace marketplace. 
As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I worked on the 
development of this legislation every step of the way, and the bill includes a 
provision I cosponsored which would prevent future "flag of convenience" 
carriers attempting to circumvent U.S. and European Union labor standards from 
receiving an operating permit from the U.S. DOT.
By far, the most monumental and transformational reform in the 21st Century 
AIRR Act will create a federally chartered, independent, not-for-profit 
corporation to operate our nation's air traffic control (ATC) services. Over 60 
countries - including Canada and the United Kingdom - have already made similar 
reforms and have seen consistent improvements in safety, technology 
modernization, and operational performance.
In contrast, the FAA has spent over 30 years attempting to modernize our ATC 
system to meet the demands of the future. The FAA's most recent modernization 
effort, "NextGen," has cost well over $7 billion, and the Department of 
Transportation inspector general has warned of tens of billions in cost 
overruns ahead and an additional decade needed for completion. Despite these 
substantial investments in time and resources, our ATC system still utilizes 
World War II-era radar technology, and our air traffic controllers manage the 
movement of planes by manually handing off paper strips from controller to 
controller. Resulting delays and congestion will only be compounded by 
increasing passenger volumes, which are soon expected to reach one billion 
To be clear, these failures are not an indictment of the FAA's dedicated 
employees. They are the result of expecting the federal government, with its 
inherent bureaucracy, to behave like a nimble high-tech service provider. 
That's why the 21st Century AIRR Act spins off ATC service to a provider that 
will be set up as a business with a CEO who is answerable to a board of 
directors. The board will be nominated by aviation system stakeholders and 
empowered to make the investments needed to prepare our ATC system to meet the 
demands of the future. Members of the board may not be employees of any 
business that uses the corporation's services or has a material interest in any 
supplier, client, or user of ATC services, ensuring members are making 
decisions that are best for the aviation system as a whole.  

To be clear, this does not mean that our air space will be privatized. In fact, 
this legislation ensures general aviation will maintain equal access to the air 
space and prominent representation in the board's governance structure. What's 
more, the new corporation will receive no federal funding. As we face ever 
difficult choices about where to allocate limited federal resources, this is an 
opportunity to save taxpayer dollars and implement better approaches to doing 
The folks in Georgia's 3rd District sent me to Washington to enact bold reforms 
to and make targeted infrastructure investments that maintain American 
leadership in the 21st century. The 21st Century AIRR Act does just that, and I 
look forward to supporting it when it comes to the House floor.
(U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson is a Republican representing Coweta and surrounding 
counties in the U.S. House of Representatives.)
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