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NextGen Air Traffic Control and the next President

by John M. White |

In reviewing the responses of both Obama and McCain as published by AOPA Online I was struck by the fact that McCain's answers were much more detailed and that McCain seemed more engaged in the conversation about general aviation and it's future.ADS-B

It seems strange that while technological advances in aircraft flight management systems seems to grow in leaps and bounds that the FAA's air traffic control system languishes in developing, or at least implementing, newer technology.  Reports tell us that the number of air traffic controllers is declining, that cross training of tower and radar personnel is ending, and that with increasing traffic more and more close calls occur both on the ground and in the air.

All the while tests in Ohio and Alaska of the ADS-B gps based technology has proven that NextGen is not only viable, but vastly superior to the present ground based radar guidance system.  Of course the only problem is - money!  With an expected cost of some $ 35 billion it seems no one wants to fund this upgrade to our national air space program.  Yet it is anticipated that the airlines alone would contribute between $10 and $ 15 billion of that cost, and add some $ 200,000 plus per aircraft to our economy, the U.S. Congress can not even fully fund the FAA's budget now.

Obama's answers to the questions posed by the AOPA Online seemed similar to his stump speeches, promising everything to everyone, but with little substance.  On the other hand, McCain - a Vietnam era pilot, seemed much more engaged and knowledgeable about the issues facing our industry today.

The real question is whether or not a Democratic controlled House and Senate are seriously interested in advancing general aviation, or if their priorities will be more on social engineering for the next few years.  Come Wednesday morning we will know (hopefully) who our next President will be; what we don't know is whether or not general aviation will be a priority for that next President.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!


I am the eagle, I live in high country,
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky,
I am the hawk and there's blood on my feathers,
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry,
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me,
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly!

Come dance with the west wind,
And touch all the mountain tops,
Sail o'er the canyons, and up to the stars,
And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future,
And all that we can be, not what we are.

by John Denver

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