Aviation Off D.C. Radar

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The economy will, of course, dominate the discussions in Washington, D.C., over the next while and that means some pressing issues in the aviation world will have to wait their turn, a panel of D.C. insiders told delegates to AOPA Expo in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday. "I don't think anyone gives a darn about aviation," Steve Alterman, president of the Cargo Airlines Association, told the first general assembly of the organization. He said he doubts, for instance, that FAA reauthorization will be decided within the next year and the much-needed modernization of the air traffic control system is likely to languish. Alterman was on a panel with National Air Transportation Association President Jim Coyne, former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and former Department of Transportation Inspector General Ken Mead. Mead had some critical comments about the modernization effort so far.

He said the so-called NextGen system "is more of a slogan more than anything else." Coyne predicted that once the economic issues settle some, the environmental impact of aviation will be a primary issue and that includes focus on phasing out 100LL, the last petroleum product that contains lead. "I don't think it's going to happen overnight, but it's clearly something that's coming down the pike. Garvey said another priority of the new administration should be peace with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "That relationship has to be repaired," she said. All the panelists agreed that the Obama administration will be less concerned with airborne security threats as it tightens sea and surface transportation security.