Airspace System Modernization
Long-term funding of the Nation’s airspace and air traffic control infrastructure is essential. ALPA feels that that funding must be comprised of Federal funds and user fees requiring all airspace users to pay “their fair share” because all users will benefit from modernization. The current US ATC infrastructure is outdated, the equipment’s capabilities are limited, facilities are crumbling, and efficiency is decreasing. The delays and similar problems in the system that currently plague the ATC system clearly underscore the critical need for ongoing National Airspace System Modernization.
NextGen is the effort to upgrade the current ATC system components on the ground and in the air and it has a $40 billion price tag. There is little debate over the need to modernize. The problem is how to pay for it. We benefit from the airlines’ return to economic solvency if capacity and efficiency can be improved. New technologies and procedures can also increase safety, particularly in areas not well served by the current infrastructure. However, any new procedures must be thoroughly evaluated so we know that the level of safety is maintained or improved.
The airlines will have to pay some of the costs, but the airlines can not afford to pay for expensive avionics equipment that may not realize its full potential benefit until the system is fully modified. FAA realizes the first benefits, but although the airlines may not see benefits of installing the new aircraft avionics for many years, the equipage is necessary to build the foundation for the future. ALPA believes that all segments of the aviation community that use the airspace should pay their fair share for the costs of modernizing it. NextGen will benefit the entire aviation community. Congress must involve all stakeholders in a plan to develop ways to pay for modernizing the National Airspace System without driving our airlines out of business.
Congressional funding is crucial. A sustained funding stream is essential. NextGen is simply a project that can not be killed in mid stream. Obviously with a price tag this high, we must get this right the first time. ALPA is working with the FAA and stakeholders to insure that the airline pilot voice is a part of all discussions regarding the transition from the current ATC system to NextGen. This transition must be made without affecting the excellent safety record of the National Airspace System.