Funding the Federal Aviation Administration
By Capt. Chris Beebe, Vice President-Finance/Treasurer
Air Line Pilot, April 2005, p.8
For this issue of "Weighing In," I wanted to take a break from the dire financial news I have been the bearer of lately. ALPA's National Officers must address many issues as a function of their office. For example, my additional responsibilities range from being a member of the Association's Air Safety Steering and Oversight Committee to being a member of ALPA's Loss of License VEBA Board.
|I hope that by building a coalition consisting of ALPA, NATCA, airlines, manufacturers, and others, we will help the current administration see the wisdom of building a better National Airspace System and begin constructing it.|
As an additional duty, I serve as the ALPA liaison to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. In addition to representing more than 15,000 air traffic controllers, NATCA also represents numerous other groups (14 in all) for a total membership of more than 19,000.
NATCA's contract will expire this fall, and the FAA's management has already begun trying to influence the negotiations, before they begin. For example, the FAA is now denying overtime in key centers/sectors. This will inevitably lead to delays that all of us will be forced to deal with.
A seminal point here is that the FAA has traditionally staffed with planned overtime as part of its framework. In the next few issues of Air Line Pilot, you will be hearing and seeing more on this issue; but in the meantime, if you are standing by on a ramp or in a holding pattern waiting for a release, your delay is likely to be the result of intentional understaffing by the FAA.
As an aside, we have been helping the FAA and NATCA develop an Aviation Safety Action Program for air traffic controllers. We have hosted several joint meetings at ALPA to facilitate and support NATCA in constructing this important safety incident data system, which ALPA pioneered.
This leads to NASMOD, or National Airspace Modernization. As one of the two members of ALPA's NASMOD Steering Committee [the other is one of the Association's executive vice-presidents, Capt. Mark Seal (United)], we have had precious little good news to report on this issue lately. In fact, the only news has been that the current federal budget proposals have no FAA funding for NASMOD.
As we head into the thunderstorm season and the delays that result, if you are not reading more about NASMOD, for sure you will be thinking about it and wishing for it.
The proposed changes that NASMOD would bring to the National Airspace System encompass several significant (and expensive) changes such as NEXCOM (next-generation communications) or CPDLC (controller/pilot datalink communications).
Another is CDTI, a cockpit display allowing for tracking other aircraft. ALPA's NASMOD Committee, under the leadership of Capt. Brian Townsend (America West), continues to push for changes to not only make the skies safer, but also to allow for more capacity in an increasingly crowded, delay-prone National Airspace System. The sad fact is that, with airline capacity back to pre-9/11 levels, we may be approaching the point of maximum traffic saturation of the skies we fly in. Without the federal money to initiate change, NASMOD will get no further than the words on this page. Those following this issue fear that with the current FAA budget shortfall, the current administration will look to our airlines as an additional funding source for the FAA.
The only way to get federal funding will be to pressure the administration into funding the FAA without placing additional financial pressure on our airlines.
I hope that by building a coalition consisting of ALPA, NATCA, airlines, manufacturers, and others, we will help the current administration see the wisdom of building a better National Airspace System and begin constructing it.
Otherwise, stand by to stand by.