Huerta: Administration Open to Alternative ATC Models

 - April 20, 2015, 8:14 AM

The Obama Administration is open to discussing alternative governance models for the air traffic control system, but such discussions must consider possible unintended consequences, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told lawmakers. During an April 14 Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Huerta said that as Washington leaders discuss the future of air traffic control governance, “We need to ask the question of what exactly is the problem we are trying to solve.” 

He maintained that the FAA is making progress in modernization and is delivering benefits through a combination of technologies and operational procedures. Any changes in governing structure must focus on the ability to deliver the technology, Huerta said and at the same time ensure stable funding, a high level of safety and a “tight linkage” between the operational and regulatory side. "I would be fearful of any structure that puts a wall in those relationships," he said. “Can alternative government structures get us there? Possibly. But we need to recognize that there may be unintended consequences that we have to fully understand.”

Huerta’s remarks came in response to a question by Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune  (R-S.D.) about growing dialog in Washington over the structure of the ATC. “Some have suggested that the current governance model for air traffic control is ill-suited for NextGen,” Thune said, praising House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) for consideringnew approaches.

The hearing was the first of several planned this month on FAA reauthorization. Others are scheduled this week on certification and airports and infrastructure funding.