James C. May, president and CEO of the Air
Transport Association has testified before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about the critical need
to implement and fund a 21st century national air traffic control (ATC)
system.In congressional testimony, May stated that a modernized and equitably
funded ATC system will facilitate safety and capacity improvements that
would benefit all sectors of our society. He explained that a
state-of-the-art system leveraging 21st century satellite-based
technology, rather than the existing 1950s earth-bound infrastructure,
would provide these improvements to all system users - general aviation,
corporate aviation, commercial airlines and the military. Under such a
cutting-edge system, the U.S. airline industry would continue to expand
its ability to move people and goods quickly and economically. May said
that inaction was not an option.
“Without prompt and thorough modernization, the ATC system will
progressively asphyxiate,” said May. “The stakes are enormous; the
public-interest considerations are clear; and the need for prompt,
decisive action is undeniable. If we do not act now, irrefutably we will
see many more delayed flights and airspace gridlock.”
May stressed that to match a modernized ATC system, Congress must also
reform its 1970s funding scheme that unfairly taxes airlines and their
customers while subsidizing corporate aviation. May testified that the
ATC system must be funded such that revenue keeps our nation’s air
commerce vibrant and responsive to consumer needs and can be provided
fairly and predictably.
May’s testimony laid out four key, equitable financing principles:
* Cost-based usage fees
* A robust general fund contribution
* Innovative financing authority - such as the authority to issue
bonds - to pay for expanding capital needs
* Cost savings from improved ATC system efficiencies
May stressed the importance of establishing a reliable funding system
that will enable the ATC system to realize the full potential of
emerging technologies, while equitably distributing costs among system
users in relation to the services they consume.
“A tripling of the fuel tax will force airline passengers to pay $1
billion annually to general aviation airports under the Airport
Improvement Program. These are airports where commercial carriers do not
fly and that is unacceptable,” said May.
“There is no correlation today between revenue collected and services
consumed,” said May. “Corporate aircraft cannot continue to get a free
ride, congest the system and pass the costs they impose on to airline
passengers and shippers.”
May pointed out that other countries have introduced equitable funding
arrangements to modernize their ATC systems.
“This is neither novel nor revolutionary. Congress faces a historic
opportunity to ensure that our air transportation system keeps pace with
global aviation,” said May.