Air Traffic Control Issues Affect Biz Aviation

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FAA Moves Ahead On Technology ...

On January 6, the FAA announced its next step in modernizing the nation's air traffic control system through a contract awarded to General Dynamics Decision Systems (GDDS) for the purchase of up to 20,000 CM-300 series air traffic control radios over the next 10 years. The FAA will use the new radios to communicate from en route air traffic control centers (ARTCC) to aircraft flying at cruising altitude as part of a modernized communications system for the National Airspace System. John Cole, a vice president and general manager with GDDS, said the FAA can "... install the CM-300 and leave it running continuously for well beyond 10 years before failure ..." In comparison to existing radios, the new CM-300 radios use the radio spectrum more efficiently and provide improved protection from interference from other radios nearby. The minimum quantity under the contract is 1000 radios, valued at $5.8 million; however, the deal has a potential value of up to $119 million.

... And Settles With Controller's Union ...

Having updated equipment is great, but without happy controllers, things could still get behind the power curve. Toward that end, the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) have reached a tentative deal on a two-year extension of NATCA's collective bargaining agreement. The new deal would extend NATCA's current agreement with the agency -- signed in 1998 and set to expire in September -- through September of 2005. "With the enormous amount of work we are doing with the FAA on a wide array of subjects, from modernizing the National Airspace System, to redesigning the airspace to enhancing the safety of air travel in the skies and on the runways and taxiways, it was vitally important to us to resolve the issue of our collective bargaining agreement as efficiently as possible," NATCA President John Carr said. "Staffing is one of our most pressing concerns," he added. "Not only do we need more controllers, we need to hire replacements for the 5,000 controllers the GAO [General Accounting Office] says will be eligible to retire within the next five years."

...With NBAA Offering Its Support

Offering their own support for the hard work our nation's ATC employees perform for general aviation, the NBAA applauded the government's air traffic controllers as true professionals. "The National Business Aviation Association joins with NATCA and many others in the aviation community who agree that air traffic control is, uniquely, a governmental function in that it must be operated for all users as a monopoly," said NBAA Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs Pete West. Speaking at a gathering of interested parties at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, West continued, "Recent proposals for 'privatizing' the ATC system would shift significant power to certain user groups, to the detriment of those with less representation on relevant governing bodies." He added, "There also is the potential for raising safety concerns by creating separate entities with conflicting missions." West also focused on concerns related to the funding of a "privatized" system, asserting that "user fee funding (a revenue generating mechanism usually associated with the 'privatization' concept) is less efficient and more unpredictable than the current excise taxes."