Should Uncle Sam Fund NextGen Avionics?
Even though DOT Secretary Ray LaHood told the “Future of U.S. Aviation” forum last week that NextGen is not just an aviation or DOT issue, the Obama administration is sending differing signals about whether it would support a proposal for federal assistance for aircraft equipage. Senior White House economic aide Lawrence Summers and a broad industry coalition are calling for speedy government financial aid, and the group reportedly is supported by high-ranking federal transportation appointees. But the White House Office of Management and Budget seems opposed to anything that would add to the federal deficit. In a letter to the DOT secretary, US Airways chairman and CEO Doug Parker said, “If the cost of deploying NextGen has to be covered by even higher taxes or fees imposed on the airlines, we prefer to live without it at the current time.” The meeting concluded with LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt revealing the formation of a new federal advisory committee that will study every facet of the aviation industry. LaHood promised that the committee will submit a blueprint for change in aviation within one year.