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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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