Adds User Fees Would Be "Death Knell For All Of Aviation"
Phil Boyer, president of the
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, recently said the common
goal of modernizing the nation's air traffic control system has
been sidetracked by the unnecessary "food fight" over FAA
Rather than pitting the controllers, general aviation, and the
airlines against each other over changing the way the agency is
funded... the FAA should have been working on "creating the new
system by talking to the people behind the equipment, and doing so
without alienating the community that it is designed to serve,"
"There's always been enough money for what FAA says NextGen will
cost, even though we don't know yet exactly what we're going to
Boyer made his comments during a September 12 speech to the
National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
NextGen is the FAA's plan to transform the air traffic control
system by creating a networked system with aircraft and ground
constantly exchanging data, allowing more efficient use of the
airspace, and reducing the amount of human interaction necessary to
maintain aircraft separation. FAA calls ADS-B (automatic dependent
surveillance-broadcast) the "backbone technology" that is supposed
to enable the rest of NextGen.
But ADS-B is already off to a rocky start, according to Boyer.
"The FAA issued the contract to build Phase 1 of this new
technology without standards or procedures, without an NPRM vetted
by the public and industry, and without total buy-in by the
airlines as to if they'll really equip for NextGen."
He said that AOPA was "all for" ADS-B when it was proposed 15
years ago, particularly since it brought with it the promise of
traffic and weather in the cockpit through the same datalink. AOPA
participates in ADS-B demonstration programs and hosts an ADS-B
ground station at its Frederick, MD headquarters. Boyer's personal
aircraft and AOPA company aircraft are ADS-B equipped.
"But we've waited so long that we're now getting weather
information on a handheld GPS in the smallest of GA aircraft. ADS-B
is a better surveillance technology than radar because it is faster
and more precise; some of the original GA benefits of ADS-B are
quickly being overtaken by new technologies."
Turning to an airline pilot who was also addressing the
controllers' conference, Boyer said, "Your TCAS systems are state
of the art. Yet if I flew my 172, which is fully equipped with what
the FAA says is the future of air traffic surveillance, next to a
Delta airliner and I didn't have my Mode C turned on, Delta
couldn't see me."
The FAA has yet to say whether ADS-B, with its faster response
time and greater accuracy, will be used to replace Mode C
And Boyer noted that while the FAA has been claiming that there
isn't enough money from the current aviation taxes to build
NextGen, H.R.2881 (the House FAA funding bill currently in the Ways
and Means Committee) would provide some $5 billion for ADS-B and
NextGen over the next four years.
"Five billion dollars is about as much as I would want to give
the FAA without knowing exactly what they're going to spend it on,"
As for proposed methods for funding the FAA after September 30,
Boyer said user fees of any kind "could be the death knell for all
"And you're in this with us," Boyer told the controllers, adding
that any sized user fee would start the move away from a "single,
uniform government-run system with dedicated employees, to one
where decisions will be made outside the control of our elected
officials.... It would start us down the road to
Boyer noted that the Senate FAA funding bill, S.1300, had what
many considered an "insignificant" $25 user fee.
"I don't care if it were only one dollar, it would start us down
the path toward privatization," Boyer said. He suggested the
controllers look at what has happened to "your bothers and sisters
in foreign countries."
Boyer reiterated AOPA's support for H.R. 2881, the House FAA
He concluded by giving thanks to controllers. "It all boils down
to the people in the cockpit and the people on the ground. And I'll
tell you, when I'm up there, I'm sure glad you're down here."