VLJ Wildcard Debated

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There appears to have been a change of tune in the FAA's attitude toward very light jets (VLJs). Earlier this year, the agency was using the potential influx of hundreds of VLJs to justify its move toward a user-pay system. But top officials seem to be now downplaying the impact of VLJs. According to a news release issued by NBAA last week, both FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and associate director for aviation safety Nicholas Sabatini have apparently abandoned that tack. "The system is in place today to accommodate the entry of new aircraft into the National Airspace System. ... This is nothing new for the FAA. It is our day-to-day business," Sabatini is quoted as telling the Senate Commerce Committee. However, the ATA still seems to believe that VLJs pose some sort of threat to the system, something the NBAA is vigorously refuting.

In a statement, NBAA President Ed Bolen called the ATA stance "fear mongering" and accused the ATA of manipulating the issue as "part of their broader strategy to pay less for air traffic services even as they try to seize control of the system." NBAA's latest salvo was made possible by an unnamed ATA official's comment to Bloomberg News that VLJs will be a "significant burden" on the system and would interfere with airline operations.