Huerta Defends NextGen


FAA Administrator Michael Huerta defended the agency’s rollout of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program to a blue-chip business audience last week, saying it’s ahead of schedule and its completion will be worth the wait. Huerta gave pointed remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Summit in response to President Donald Trump’s comments after a meeting with airline executives that NextGen is “totally out of whack.” Huerta told the business leaders that his agency has made “tremendous progress” implementing the system and the savings to the aviation industry and government are just beginning.

“While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we’d all like to move faster, I also firmly believe that any fair review of the past few years makes clear that our work together has been critical to the success of the tremendous progress we have made to revamp our air traffic system with the latest technologies,” Huerta said. “The FAA can demonstrate that it has already delivered more than $2.72 billion in benefits under the NextGen modernization umbrella. We expect that number to climb to $160 billion by 2030.” He said the rollout is already 29 months ahead of schedule and the resulting savings will allow it to expand the implementation of datalink services to seven towers beyond the 55 already earmarked. Trump has also doubted Huerta’s credentials for the job, suggesting a pilot should be in charge of the FAA. “He’s not a pilot? I just think a non-pilot would not know the sophistication of this [ATC] system, right?” Trump told the airline meeting.