Opinion

FAA Reauthorization Legislation: Providing 21st Century Air Traffic Control

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Congress is currently considering FAA reauthorization legislation that contains long overdue upgrades to the nation’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) system.  Congressman Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey and others in Congress are working diligently to pass the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, that will help equip ATC workers with technology improvements. Consumers here in New Jersey and the region will greatly benefit from the enhancements making our skies even safer and more efficient than they are today. 

Under the AIRR Act, the nation’s ATC system would move from the FAA to a federally chartered, independent entity. This not-for-profit body will focus on oversight and management, leaving safety under the authority of the FAA. This shift will mean fewer delays and cancellations, more direct trips and lower fuel consumption. Furthermore, ATC funding will no longer be tied to the uncertainties of the federal budget process, and will instead receive funding on a predictable basis. This is a model that works quite well in other parts of the world, and it is an approach that has the supported of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

These commonsense reforms are exactly what our country needs to usher in ATC technology, management and funding into the 21st century at our regional airports, including Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Trenton and Newark.  But how we fund these critical reforms is important.   

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Currently, the responsibility to pay for the ATC falls predominately on commercial flights.  The reform plan being discussed in Congress proposes that all users of the airspace equally shoulder the responsibility to modernize the nation’s ATC system.  Fair apportionment of costs will ensure that the modernization process leading to the improvement of the ATC system is sufficiently funded.

Everyone agrees that modernizing the ATC system is necessary progress.  ATC modernization will ensure America’s aviation industry is well-positioned to thrive in the years ahead.   Most importantly, by passing AIRR, Congress can ensure that all users pay their fair share to maintain the safety of the nation’s airspace.  

Jack Lettiere 
Former Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation

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