There are signs that Washington has acquired a sense of urgency (long past due, some would say) about the disarray that has thus far stalled progress on ATC modernization. Last month’s appointment of former FAA ATO v-p of operations planning Vicki Cox to the new position of senior v-p for NextGen and operations planning raised some questions about the agency’s desire to be more involved in planning the future airspace system.
Air Traffic Organization
As Washington pundits predicted, the change from a Republican to a Democrat majority in the Senate and the shift in leadership from Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to Sen. Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) was not exactly the smoothest transition in congressional history.
In a surprise move, the FAA announced late last week that it appointed ATO vice president of operations planning Vicki Cox to become senior vice president for NextGen and operations planning. While surprising, the step was not unwelcome, FAA and industry sources told AIN.
“The changing dynamics of aviation have brought a lot of people to corporate aviation,” said corporate pilot Darcy Eggeman at last month’s Women in Aviation Conference. “The passengers want to know who’s flying the aircraft, who their flight attendants are and who their mechanics are. The best way to do that is to have their own aircraft.
The unions representing nearly 20,000 employees of the FAA have joined in a coalition “to hold the FAA accountable” for meeting its modernization goals and to improve working conditions at the agency. The coalition represents the largest group of organized employees at the FAA.
Although the bill is called the Aviation Industry and Reform Act and is designed to give more financial relief to the airline industry, H.R.5506 also contains provisions
to reform some parts of the FAA and exempts some foreign pilots who come to the
U.S. for recurrent training from undergoing Justice Department background checks.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) president Patrick Forrey raised more than a few eyebrows in a recent speech at the Washington Aero Club, calling on Congress to order an immediate, comprehensive evaluation of the NextGen ATC system before any more funds are expended.
The FAA has criticized the airlines for failing to equip their aircraft with the latest on-board weather technology, thereby limiting the amount of relevant data pilots receive. The agency commended general aviation, however, for embracing new technologies that will be an integral part of the NextGen air transportation system.
The next-generation ATC system (NextGen) will not be turned on instantly with the flip of a switch but rather will evolve over a period of years as components already developed become more predictive and repeatable.
A DOT Inspector General report published late last week reveals that FAA managers at the Dallas-Fort Worth Tracon “routinely” and “intentionally” misclassified operational errors and deviations as pilot errors or non-events. The report was prompted by whistleblower allegations that management was covering up operational errors and deviations.