FAA Chief Boosts NextGen Budget, Expects Labor Peace Soon

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Speaking before a House appropriations committee on Tuesday, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt asked for a 24-percent boost in funding for NextGen projects, a total of $865 million. Babbitt also said that negotiations with the air traffic controllers union, which were stalled and contentious for several years, now are making progress. "I'm optimistic," he said. "The talks are proceeding well, both sides are at the table, and I think we'll reach an agreement. The best agreements are reached when everyone wants an agreement, and right now there is both that desire and a positive atmosphere." Babbitt said the agency will hire more than 1,700 new controllers in fiscal year 2010. "We're hiring more controllers faster than ever," he said. "We are providing them with quality training."

He also asked for $3.5 billion to fund airport projects, including runway safety area improvements, runway incursion reduction, and aviation safety management. The FAA's total budget request was $15.9 billion. Babbitt also requested funding to hire 30 new safety inspectors and asked for a 5.3-percent increase in R&D funding that would go toward research on fire safety, propulsion and fuel systems, advanced materials, and aging aircraft. Click here for the full text of Babbitt's testimony to the committee.