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Wed, Feb 06, 2008

Blakey Says FAA Budget Provides Needed Boost to NextGen

Former Administrator Continues To Tout Party Line

Just because her office address has changed, doesn't mean former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's views on funding the agency -- and the much-bandied "next generation" air traffic control system -- have been altered in the slightest. This week, Blakey came out in support of the Bush administration's fiscal year 2009 FAA budget request, saying the proposal provides a major step forward in air transportation modernization, and Congress should support the effort.

In a release to ANN, Blakey -- now the President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association -- added the request significantly increases funding for development and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen. The increase will go largely to advanced satellite-based air traffic management technologies like Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B.

"This investment will boost ongoing efforts to advance NextGen and deal with the daunting challenges posed by the ever-increasing demand for air travel," Blakey said.

As ANN reported, general aviation 'letter-groups' protested the administration's budget plan, which includes $688 million for the transition to the agency's much-touted -- but so far, under-realized -- NextGen air traffic control system. Those groups don't disagree that NextGen is needed... but to help pay for it and keep spending in line, the White House also called for deep cuts in programs vital to smaller airports, most notably the Airport Improvement Program. 

In a repeat of last year's budget request -- which was subsequently trounced by Congress -- the FY2009 proposal also calls for new user fees against general aviation pilots... all-the-while continuing to show apparent favoritism towards airlines.

Blakey counters the funding increases come as planning for NextGen is maturing and the need moves to developing and implementing the technologies involved. AIA believes it is important for the FAA to take these tangible steps forward toward implementing the new air transportation system, she added.

It's almost reassuring in a way... that even with a new job title on Ms. Blakey's business card, her discord with general aviation remains intact...



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