FAA To Trim Budget...

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Equipment And Facilities Face 12.6-Percent Cut...

The FAA is defending a proposed 12.6-percent cut in its equipment budget days after a radio failure caused numerous flight delays and (depending who you talk to) up to five instances of loss of separation in California last Tuesday. Under the proposed budget, the money spent by the FAA on equipment and facilities would drop from $2.62 billion to $2.5 billion (maybe the Bush administration just likes round numbers). So far, the Senate and House have apparently agreed with Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, who told The Miami Herald that the FAA spends too much money trying to invent technology. "By the time they change it, the private sector comes up with off-the-shelf technology or new technology that does a better job," he said. Those who work with the equipment have a different view. "Cutting the budget by almost 14 percent [sic] is insane," said Tom Brantley, president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), which represents the technicians who fix the equipment. "Seventy percent of the systems out there are in need of upgrade or replacement." FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin disputed that view, saying equipment is constantly being upgraded and there is nothing more than nine years old in the system. Ruth Marlin, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), predicted there would be more equipment failures. "Air traffic control modernization has got to be constant," she said.