The top official in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called on the nation to “acknowledge, recognize and deal with the conflicts between us all on the issues of general aviation and corporate aviation.”
Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the national chamber, asserted that general aviation is part of the fabric of this country. “I’ve been to a lot of airports in this country that I can’t book a ticket to,” he said. “What we need [to do is assemble] a coalition of interests and figure out what we can get done together, and then we can argue about the things still left on the plate.”
Speaking at the chamber’s 9th Annual Aviation Summit in Washington late last month, Donohue advocated getting everybody in the aviation industry together on the questions of fuel, security, physical facilities and the FAA.
“And the biggest question is when the [heck] is this country going to go out and do something about an air traffic control system? We have all of the technology and we can get extraordinary efficiency, reduce fuel use, move the programs and improve security, but it’s not being done because a group of people like the deal the way it is,” he declared. “[That group is] the air traffic controllers.”
Donohue also said that it would help the health of the aviation industry and the overall economy if Congress would stop demonizing legitimate business travel.
In a panel discussion amongst three former heads of the FAA, Langhorne Bond noted that in every part of the world except for the U.S. and France, air navigation services are provided by non-governmental entities.
He pointed out that the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (Canso) is now 12 years old, and he contended that next-generation air traffic control technology is going forward at that organization rather than at the FAA.
Bond, who was Administrator under President Carter, urged a switch to a “corporatized” ATC system. “If Natca [the National Air Traffic Controllers Association] would take a realistic view of this, it would move,” he contended.
Concerning NextGen ATC modernization, Allan McArtor, who was FAA Administrator under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, observed that equipage is the long pole in the tent.
Now chairman of Airbus North America, McArtor described equipage as a chicken-and-egg issue, in that it’s tough to convince an airline or corporate operator to buy and install equipment that will have limited use for the next couple of years.
“I think we all understand that the various pieces of NextGen are both essential and beneficial to the industry,” he said. “It’s a matter of rollout and production.”
Mechanisms are needed to make airlines feel comfortable buying and installing equipment, even though it may have limited use for them, in order to create the universe in which it is productive.
Bobby Sturgell, who was FAA Deputy Administrator and then acting FAA Administrator under President Bush, said that regulatory issues that have to be faced by the head of the agency now have more to do with ATC and economics than safety because of the sterling U.S. safety record.
Nevertheless, he said, when there is an accident such as the February 2009 Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., “What the Administrator needs to do is what [FAA Administrator] Randy [Babbitt] did: get people to step back, get the right folks together, industry included…and let the issue be driven by data as opposed
to emotions. We don’t want these unintended consequences, which is what we’re going to get if we react too quickly without a lot of thought.”