Airlines, their customers and the communities that they serve cannot afford to continue to pay the price of an obsolete air traffic control (ATC) system, James C. May, president and CEO, Air Transport Association of America, (ATA) said in testimony before the Subcommittee on Aviation of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. May estimates that flight delays in 2007 alone cost the economy $41 billion.
“The federal role is indispensable if we are to have an airport and airway system that can responsibly meet the air transportation needs of our nation," May said, urging adoption of NextGen technology to solve air traffic control problems. "The system does not do that today, as we all too often realize. The burden of this failure on our economy is staggering. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimated that flight delays in 2007 cost the economy $41 billion.
“The case for modernization is so compelling and so widely accepted, and the need is so great, that the introduction of what all agree is readily available technology and the procedures to fully leverage it must be a national priority," May continued. "To make that priority a reality, the federal government – at the highest levels – must provide decisive leadership and a substantial financial commitment."
“Modernization of the ATC system, however, must be based on a positive business case," May said. "Without that justification, we will not see the level and pace of investment that will produce the operational and environmental benefits that are so achievable from NextGen. Such forgone opportunities are intolerable.
“The federal government holds the keys to making NextGen a reality sooner rather than later," May continued. "This must be a national priority, to which all necessary resources must be devoted. Government leadership and full funding can make it happen in several years, not in the third decade of this century as is assumed today. Accepting anything less ambitious will needlessly shortchange our country.
“Leadership, I want to point out, includes exhibiting the wherewithal to overcome the political differences that an undertaking of this magnitude will inevitably create," May said. "We need to be candid and acknowledge this state of affairs. For example, this means that we cannot dither over implementing the FAA’s New York airspace redesign plan. NextGen won’t work in New York or anywhere else if individual interests frustrate the airspace improvements that will indisputably benefit us all."
May said leadership means a very serious commitment to infrastructure investment, but warned that without leadership and funding, “implementation of NextGen will drag on, and our nation will suffer even more from airport and airway congestion.”