With its approval ratings hovering in the single digits, the U.S. Congress doesn't come immediately to mind as a towering institution for common sense and wisdom. Nonetheless, the Senate Appropriations Committee deserves props for reining in the FAA's AeroNav division, which launched an inept and ill-thought-out effort to begin charging airspace users for navigation data last December.
Not so fast, said the committee. It looks like it will order AeroNav to restore its practice of releasing nav data revisions two weeks ahead of the effective date, rather than the 24 hours it abruptly converted to last year, throwing the burgeoning nav app industry into a tither. While the good Senators have their spotlight focused on this minor little corner of the FAA, I hope they will order the GAO to conduct a full, out-in-the-open audit of AeroNav. Heretofore, our questions about its economics have been deflected by the FAA because it insists that because AeroNav is a so-called high performing organization, that's all we need to know.
But all that really means is that AeroNav falls back on business speak and pretends that it works like a for-profit company. We can be reasonably sure it doesn't, because when for-profit companies run into revenue shortfalls, they don't ask their customers for more money, they cut costs and become more efficient. It's quite possible that AeroNav has done this. They just refuse to give us enough information to make any kind of determination. A GAO audit could address this. As I've said before, if the user fees are justified, so be it. But first, prove it.
While we're on the subject, one more request of the committee. How about putting a little pressure on the FAA to release the findings and recommendations of its unleaded fuels transition ARC committee. I keep hearing that this group has done great things but no one will offer any details nor go on the record, so excuse me for being skeptical of what this committee has done. I think aircraft owners—especially those contemplating writing a check for $600,000 or more for a new airplane, deserve to know what their government is doing to encourage the development of new fuels standards. Why we accept this kind of secrecy—the AeroNav meeting was closed to the press, too—just baffles me. Every week that goes by without some revelation of what this ARC has accomplished, just chips away at buyer confidence. The party line from the FAA and the alphabets is pretty close to saying no such lack of confidence exists. Everything is just hunky dory and don't worry about it.
Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm the sole remaining inhabitant of the alternate universe where people actually worry about future fuel supplies.
Really, guys. All it takes is to show us what you've got.