NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert address some of the most commonly asked questions about ATC reform and the current FAA reauthorization legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (click on the hyperlinked wording to view):
MORE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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Oct. 2, 2017
FAA SHUTDOWN AVOIDED
Last week, Congress narrowly avoided a shutdown at the FAA by passing a six-month extension for the FAA’s authorization.
Lawmakers waited until the last minute to reauthorize the FAA and attempted to include a range of non-related policy provisions, such as controversial language relating to private flood insurance, as well as tax extenders and health programs. Ultimately, President Trump singed an amended version of the bill into law by, avoiding a shutdown at the Agency.
NATCA Call-to-Action: With only a few days remaining until the FAA authorization’s expiration, NATCA acted quickly to engage members by asking them to call their members of Congress and urge passage of the FAA extension. We thank those members who participated to make these important calls to Congress.
Background: Prior to the Sept. 30 deadline, both the House and Senate passed FAA reauthorization legislation through their respective committees of jurisdiction (H.R. 2997 and S. 1405). However, neither bill has been brought to the floor for consideration, which made the six-month extension necessary. The extension inevitably puts House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Chairman Bill Shuster’s proposal to reform air traffic control on hold, but lawmakers in the House may consider the legislation this month.
NATCA Impact: NATCA played a critical role with Congress as the FAA extension was being considered, and we will continue to engage Congress as the FAA Reauthorization process continues. NATCA is highlighting the need for a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports the following: air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventative maintenance, ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure, and the timely implementation of NextGen modernization projects.
Membership Update, June 29, 2017: Please click here.
June 26, 2017
Update: Senate FAA Bill
On Thursday, June 22, the Senate Commerce Committee introduced the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017. Although NATCA has met with the committee drafting the legislation, we did not see the final provisions of the bill until it was officially introduced. Unlike the House bill, the Senate legislation does not propose any structural reform of the FAA.
After reviewing the bill, we have a couple of concerns. We will focus on both issues with committee leadership, as well as with the Senate Commerce Committee during markup this Thursday. Committee markup is an important step in the process, where exact language of the legislation is discussed, amended, and acted upon. Our concerns surround language that could be harmful to the ATSAP/ASAP just culture and proposed language that will slow down the hiring process by adding yet another step.
Additionally, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up its FAA bill tomorrow (June 27). We are monitoring every amendment and subsequent developments to ensure our core principles are met.
June 22, 2017
NATCA SUPPORTS HOUSE T&I CHAIRMAN BILL SHUSTER’S FAA REAUTHORIZATION BILL – the 21st Century AIRR ACT
The NATCA National Executive Board sent this message to all members on Wednesday, June 21:
Today, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.-9) introduced an FAA reauthorization bill – the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act (the 21st Century AIRR Act). NATCA worked closely with the Chairman and his staff as they developed the bill. The 21st Century AIRR Act is substantively similar to the AIRR Act of 2016 that our Union supported because it met our Four Core Principles for Reform.
NATCA reviewed every word and detail of the 21st Century AIRR Act. After extremely careful review, consideration, and deliberation, we have reached a decision: NATCA supports this bill.
Our Union has been focused on providing a stable, predictable funding stream to operate and improve the National Airspace System (NAS). To get NATCA’s support, any ATC reform legislation must, at a minimum, meet our Four Core Principles:
• Protect the men and women who ensure the safety and efficiency of the NAS in their employment relationship, including their rights and benefits;
• Maintain safety and efficiency as the top priorities;
• Provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization of the physical infrastructure; and
• Ensure continued service to all segments of our nation’s diverse aviation community.
It is essential that any proposed legislation not harm NATCA’s members. This bill protects our workforce – including pay, benefits, retirement, and collective bargaining rights. If this bill, as written today, becomes law, employees will be kept whole.
We made sure that we clearly understood how this bill would protect the NAS and allow it to continue to grow, as well as how it would protect the men and women who are the backbone of the system. We assure you that we treated this decision with extraordinary care.
Like last year’s bill, this legislation proposes a federally-chartered, not-for-profit corporation to operate the NAS. We would vigorously oppose a for-profit model, and this would NOT be a for-profit model. While the media and others discussing this issue have characterized this legislation as a “privatization bill,” to us, privatization has always been synonymous with a profit motive where safety and efficiency are not the top priorities. That definition does NOT fit this bill today. We support this bill because it does make safety and efficiency the top priorities.
We applaud the hard work that the Committee has done to develop this proposal. The legislation currently addresses NATCA’s primary issues of concern.
As we told you on June 7, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-4) proposed an alternate model for ensuring a stable, predictable funding stream for the FAA, while at the same time protecting employees and ensuring the safety of the NAS. That legislation, if enacted, would provide a stable, predictable funding stream for the NAS by taking the Airport and Airway Trust Fund “off budget.” Specifically, Ranking Member DeFazio’s bill would exempt the Trust Fund’s uncommitted cash balance from the Congressional budget process, sequestration, and directives issued by the Office of Management and Budget. The bill also would authorize the uncommitted Trust Fund balance to be used for rebuilding and modernizing air traffic control facilities.
We appreciate the effort that Ranking Member DeFazio and his staff made. After careful review, we also support the provisions of that bill. However, after introduction of his bill, Ranking Member DeFazio conceded that, “[it] likely will face some opposition from [House] appropriation leaders, who in the past have criticized ‘off budget proposals.’” Although the bill was co-sponsored by all of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s minority members, it would seem to have little chance on a committee where the chairman has now introduced his own bill.
We also anticipate that the Senate Commerce Committee will introduce its own FAA reauthorization bill in the coming days. That bill will likely be different than both the Chairman’s and Ranking Member’s bills. As we have discussed the subject with Senate staff we have learned, and media reports confirm, it will not contain a package to significantly overhaul air traffic control.
Today is only the beginning stage of a legislative process with many steps. As you all know, the language in proposed legislation is often changed or amended throughout the legislative process. We will continue to track this bill to vigorously and carefully review how it would affect our members and the NAS. If, and when, there are changes to this legislation, we will review them to ensure that it continues to fully align with our organization’s policies, practices, and core principles. We reserve the right to withhold our support if any change causes the bill to violate our core principles.
We will continue to keep you informed on all developments as the ATC reform discussion progresses.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been reauthorized through Sept. 30, 2017. Unfortunately, this legislation does not provide the long-term certainty our National Airspace System (NAS) needs. While NATCA considers the extension a good start that provides certainty through the end of this fiscal year, our preference is for a full, long-term reauthorization with stable, predictable funding that ends both sequestration and the stop-and-go funding that has harmed the NAS.
At a White House event on Monday, June 5, the President announced his proposal to move the air traffic control system to a not-for-profit, non-governmental corporation. NATCA will continue to protect the rights and benefits of the workforce as part of all discussions on this topic; the employees who would move to a new entity and those who would remain with the FAA, if any proposed legislation became law.
Here’s a look at the recent news, how NATCA responded, and what comes next:
PRESIDENTIAL PROPOSAL: On Monday, June 5, the President signed a letter to Congress that outlines the broad parameters of his plan. He did not sign a formal proposal nor any detailed legislative language. Rather, it was simply a policy statement. Based on the President’s public statements and the policy document itself, the White House’s ATC reform proposal is similar to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR Act), which was the ATC reform proposal championed by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. NATCA supported the AIRR Act last year because it met our Union’s Four Core Principles for Reform.
NATCA’s FOUR CORE PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM:
- Protect the rights and benefits of the workforce;
- Ensure that safety and efficiency remain the top priorities;
- Provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization of the physical infrastructure; and
- Maintain service to all segments of our nation’s diverse aviation community.
NATCA’s PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL: NATCA shares the Administration’s commitments to infrastructure modernization and providing the National Airspace System (NAS) with a stable, predictable funding stream. We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control (ATC) reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our Union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce. NATCA considers the status quo to be unacceptable and will oppose any ATC reform proposal that would institute a for-profit model.
NATCA’S FULL RESPONSE, AS DETAILED IN A JUNE 6 MESSAGE TO THE MEMBERSHIP FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD: Please read the full message here.
MEDIA OUTREACH: NATCA issued a proactive media statement about the President’s proposal that was widely picked-up by many of the television, radio, print, and web news sources that covered this announcement. We also corrected incorrect statements and responded to questions from many dozens of congressional offices and media representatives. Read the statement.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Read NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s letter to The Washington Post, making NATCA’s position clear.
SOME SELECTED EXAMPLES OF HOW OUR STATEMENT, OUR POSITION, AND SOME OF OUR INTERVIEWS HAVE BEEN CONVEYED IN THE MEDIA:
- NBC NEWS: Controllers are cautious about handing the skies to a private company and ensuring rural America is still served. “We need to ensure that we don’t disrupt the system, that we don’t break anything as we’re trying to fix it,” said Patricia Gilbert (NATCA Executive Vice President).
- THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “The union representing some 10,500 (fully certified) controllers, stung by a staffing crisis due in part to erratic FAA appropriations, said it shares the administration’s commitment to modernization and will review the legislation to see whether it protects its members.”
- THE WASHINGTON POST (June 6): “That National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) backed Shuster’s plan, saying the corporation would ensure more stable funding than Congress could provide. Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, said his union would “evaluate whether [the Trump plan] satisfies our union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce.”
- THE WASHINGTON POST (June 7): “National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said through collaboration with the aviation industry, FAA is on or ahead of schedule with some of the most critical NextGen programs, such as developing a system to automate communication between controllers and pilots to increase efficiency. ‘It’s important to point out that since 2009, we have focused on working together to modernize the system while simultaneously maintaining the safety and efficiency of the world’s busiest, most complex, most diverse, and safest airspace. This is no simple task,’ Rinaldi said.”
- BLOOMBERG: “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents 20,000 U.S. air traffic controllers and related employees, has been agitating for more predictable FAA funding for years. The union says any ATC change must protect employee rights and benefits; keep safety and efficiency as top priorities; provide a stable funding stream; and maintain service to all aviation segments. The union supported the 2016 bill. “We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control (ATC) reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce,” union President Paul Rinaldi said Monday in a statement.”
- FEDERAL SOUP: “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association released a statement of optimism, not showing full support of the move, but open to change. ‘NATCA considers the status quo to be unacceptable,’ the organization said in the statement, adding that it will oppose any ATC reform proposal that would institute a for-profit model. NATCA previously supported a federally chartered not-for-profit corporation model, as proposed in the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016.”
- AVIATION INTERNATIONAL NEWS: “One of the most notable reactions from yesterday’s detailed look at a reform proposal came from the controllers’ union, which had offered support to such a proposal when first unveiled last year. While the National Air Traffic Controllers Association still offered support for reform, it was more cautious about embracing the Trump proposal, saying it first needed to review the details to ensure it met its goals.”
- AVWEB: NATCA was quick to respond to the Trump proposal, with a statement from their president, Paul Rinaldi. NATCA said it will study the legislation in detail before commenting. The union has long been supportive of a not-for-profit model for ATC that would provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, and that would maintain service to all segments of aviation.
WHAT’S NEXT? The President delivered this proposal to Congress, which already has a very busy agenda. Reform legislation will need to pass both the House and the Senate before the President can sign it into law. As we reported to the membership on June 2, much can change during this legislative process, and no one can predict when it might get a Congressional vote or what any final legislation may look like. No matter what occurs during this process, NATCA will continue to fight to protect the National Airspace System (NAS) and the men and women who safeguard it.
RANKING MEMBER DEFAZIO INTRODUCES “AVIATION FUNDING STABILITY ACT”: On Wednesday, June 7, House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 2800, the Aviation Funding Stability Act. Members: To read NATCA’s position on H.R. 2800, please view it here.
REFERRING INQUIRIES TO NATCA NATIONAL OFFICE: Many of you have been contacted by members of the media and some congressional offices. We ask that you please continue to forward any such contacts to the National Office. For media inquiries, please forward to Director of Communications Doug Church ([email protected]). For legislative inquiries, please forward to Director of Government Affairs Jose Ceballos ([email protected]).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT NATCA’S POSITION ON ATC FUNDING AND POSSIBLE REFORM: On May 17, Paul Rinaldi, at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about FAA and air traffic control reform, promised to fight for labor protections in any legislation, outlined why we must have a stable, predictable funding stream, and made clear that “we do not believe there is only one solution to the problems.”
- Written testimony.
- Video of the hearing.
- Video: Highlights of the hearing.
- Video: Rinaldi’s opening statement.
- Full coverage – from the NATCA Insider.
NATCA’S OVERALL POSITION ON FUNDING AND REFORM
NATCA’s primary objective remains the same: to achieve a stable, predictable funding stream for the National Airspace System. NATCA will review any new proposal and evaluate it based on whether it protects workforce rights and benefits, maintains safety and efficiency as the top priorities, creates funding certainty, and maintains service to all segments of the aviation community.
INTERNAL NEWS AND HEADLINES
Yet another possible government shutdown looms just four weeks away. It’s bad for the National Airspace System (NAS) and the country. But it provides a fitting and timely backdrop for NATCA to again make the strong case for why the status quo is broken, unsustainable, and incapable of handling the current and future needs of the NAS.
On Thursday, March 30, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi joined former Senator Byron Dorgan for an Eno Center for Transportation policy webinar entitled: Modernizing Air Traffic Control from the Labor Perspective. Before an online audience that included aviation community members and some media, Rinaldi laid out the bottom line for NATCA: we must have a stable, predictable funding stream for the NAS.
“It’s no secret that our status quo is unacceptable, with unpredictable, stop-and-go funding, short-term extensions of FAA reauthorizations, sequester, furloughs, constant threats of shutdown, and now new threats of shrinking resources and budget,” Rinaldi said. “We cannot sustain a robust aviation system if we don’t fix the status quo.”
March 16, 2017: NATCA Statement on the President’s 2018 Budget Proposal
WASHINGTON – NATCA will carefully evaluate the President’s proposal. For us to consider supporting any reform proposal, it must meet our core principles:
- Protecting the men and women who ensure the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS) in their employment relationship, including their rights and benefits;
- Ensuring that safety and efficiency remain the top priorities;
- Providing a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization of the physical infrastructure; and
- Ensuring continued service to all segments of our nation’s diverse aviation community.
NATCA opposes operating the NAS based on a profit motive. We also oppose any proposal that would maintain the unstable, unpredictable status quo.
As the Administration and Congress consider air traffic control reform and work to provide long-term reauthorization for the FAA, and therefore address the problem of stop-and-go funding, it is important that all stakeholders within the NAS collaborate to ensure that the United States remains the world leader in aviation. We are encouraged that a discussion on the future of aviation and the NAS is a national priority.
NATCA will continue to seek to be part of the solution to the problems caused by an unstable, unpredictable funding stream. We will continue to ensure the safety of the NAS and protect the men and women who safeguard it, both today and in the future.
On background: NATCA supported the Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016, because it met these core principles.
When the future of the air traffic control (ATC) system is up for debate, NATCA needs to be at the table. Learn more.
When the future of the ATC system is debated, NATCA will stand up for controllers and safety professionals. Learn more.
Changes in the ATC system are coming. It’s vital that NATCA’s voice is heard. Learn more.
When the future of the ATC system is debated, NATCA will stand up for controllers and safety professionals. Learn more.
HAVE A QUESTION? WE WANT TO HEAR IT
We have set up an email address to receive any questions you have. Please click here.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION ON NATCA BBS MEMBERS FORUM
Have a question? Want to express an opinion or a concern? Want to have a discussion with fellow NATCA members? The NATCA BBS is a good place to do all of these things. Go to bbs.natca.org.
LATEST UPDATE FROM NATIONAL OFFICE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT
June 12, 2017
The current FAA Reauthorization is set to expire on Sept. 30, coinciding with the end of this fiscal year. The committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate have been holding hearings on the subject in advance of the deadline. Earlier in May, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi testified before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. To view a copy of his testimony, please click here.
On June 8, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held another hearing focused on FAA reauthorization, entitled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Federal Aviation Administration Authorization,” where U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was the sole witness. On the Senate side, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing entitled “FAA Reauthorization: Administration Perspectives” on June 7, where Chao was the sole witness. So far, neither the House nor the Senate has released a bill to reauthorize the FAA, but each chamber is hoping to introduce their own version of FAA Reauthorization legislation before the Fourth of recess.
Timing: Considering that the House and Senate is in recess for the entire month of August, and the House is considering a 12-bill omnibus (see more information below), timing is extremely limited leading up to the Sept. 30 deadline. That means an extension is more and more likely for FAA Reauthorization.
White House Proposal: President Trump announced plans to overhaul the US air traffic control system. In a White House East Room ceremony, the President, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and others spoke about a proposal to transition control of the nation’s skies away from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Click here to view a message that NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and EVP Trish Gilbert sent out to the membership. Following the announcement, Secretary Chao testified before the committees of jurisdiction to elaborate on the Administration’s position on ATC reform.
Ranking Member DeFazio Proposal: House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-4) introduced H.R. 2800, the Aviation Funding Stability Act. The legislation, if enacted, would provide a stable, predictable funding stream for the NAS by taking the Airport and Airway Trust Fund “off budget.” Specifically, the bill would exempt the Trust Fund’s uncommitted cash balance from the Congressional budget process, sequestration, and directives issued by the Office of Management and Budget. The bill also would authorize the uncommitted Trust Fund balance to be used for rebuilding and modernizing air traffic control facilities. NATCA supports the provisions in this bill. Click here to view a message from NATCA President Rinaldi and EVP Gilbert to the membership.
NATCA Impact: NATCA has played a critical role with Congress in the FAA Reauthorization process. During the 114th Congress, NATCA supported Chairman Shuster’s proposal (H.R. 4441; the AIRR Act) to reform air traffic control and provide a stable, predictable funding stream. NATCA also worked with Ranking Member Peter DeFazio on his proposal, but he ultimately decided not to introduce it. NATCA continues to work with Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio’s respective staff, as well as with the Senate staff and executive branch, to ensure that our priorities are addressed in any FAA Reauthorization legislation. NATCA will closely scrutinize any proposal to ensure it meets the priorities of our members.
2016 News Archive
July 15, 2016 – From The NATCA Insider
Passage of FAA Extension That Addresses Staffing Rewards NATCA’s Intensive Legislative Efforts
The House and the Senate have beaten the July 15 deadline and passed an extension for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization that runs through Sept. 30, 2017. However, this is not the typical extension Congress has now done 25 times to the FAA in the last 10 years.
This extension marks a significant achievement for NATCA’s national and local legislative efforts led by the National Executive Board, the National Office, and the National Legislative Committee (NLC). The legislation addresses the controller staffing crisis, including language that will streamline the hiring process by allowing experienced controllers, military veterans, and graduates of schools in the FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) to be hired more expeditiously. CTI graduates and veterans will be considered in a separate pool from the general public. The extension will also increase the maximum entry age for a controller with 52 weeks experience to 35 years of age.
The language is nearly identical to that contained in H.R. 5292, the Air Traffic Controller Hiring Improvement Act of 2016, sponsored by Congressmen Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., that was introduced just before NATCA in Washington attendees arrived on Capitol Hill in May.
That the language was included in the extension is no coincidence, as Central Region Legislative Representative Allison Schwaegel wrote to NCE members this week. “All of this should sound familiar to you because it was the ask this year at NATCA in Washington,” she wrote.
To read the full story, please click here.
NATCA Press Release – July 7, 2016
NATCA Urges Passage of FAA Authorization Extension that Addresses Air Traffic Controller Staffing Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is urging Congress to pass an extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization, which extends funding to the end of fiscal year 2017 and includes language that would help address the air traffic controller staffing crisis. The following is a statement by NATCA:
“NATCA would like to thank Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune and Ranking Member Bill Nelson, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio for their leadership in bringing this extension to the threshold of passage.
“The number of fully certified controllers working today is at a 27-year low, a crisis made worse by FAA’s inability to meet its own hiring goals in each of the last seven years. NATCA believes FAA must take a holistic, collaborative approach to resolving these staffing concerns. If passed, the extension as drafted would streamline the hiring process by allowing experienced controllers to be hired quickly; military veterans and graduates of schools in FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) would also be hired more expeditiously. CTI graduates and veterans would be considered in a separate pool from the general public. The extension would also increase the maximum entry age for a controller with 52 weeks experience to 35 years of age, another provision we applaud. Similar language sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Sean Patrick Maloney in H.R. 5292 has received strong bipartisan support, with 237 co-sponsors.
“While NATCA considers the extension a good start that provides certainty through the end of the next fiscal year, our preference is for a full, long-term reauthorization with stable, predictable funding that ends both sequestration and the stop-and-go funding that has harmed the National Airspace System (NAS). NATCA is sincerely concerned that anything shorter than the proposed 14-month extension would severely hamper the FAA’s ability to adequately hire new employees and would only exacerbate the effects of stop-and-go authorization and funding on the NAS that we have experienced in recent years.”
June 15, 2016
THE WASHINGTON TIMES: “Air Traffic Control Shouldn’t Model Metro”
By Paul Rinaldi, NATCA President
Please click here to read this op/ed column.
June 2, 2016
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi took part in an RTCA 2016 Global Aviation Symposium panel on FAA Reauthorization. The National Airspace System (NAS) still runs on decades-old technology, yet efforts to update it have limped forward.
Inadequate funding streams have included short-term extensions, furloughs, and government shutdowns that prevent the FAA from planning long-term or even mid-term capital investments into the NAS, leaving modernization projects like NextGen at a standstill, Rinaldi said. This unpredictability in funding has also prevented the FAA from meeting its hiring and staffing goals. Currently, there is a 27-year low of certified professional controllers (CPCs).
Rinaldi began his discussion of the issue by highlighting the number one need of the NAS: a stable, predictable funding stream.
“People may say the system is fine because we do the best job, we run the safest, best NAS in the world,” he said. “While that’s true, what we need is new equipment and a steady stream of air traffic controller candidates coming through the system to keep it that way.”
Due to staffing shortages, many controllers currently work mandatory six–day workweeks and 10-hour days. These staffing challenges, which make it exceedingly difficult to develop and implement new technology, Rinaldi said, may be the most obvious sign that the status quo is not as great as some of the panelists claim.
“I don’t have enough controllers to help implement NextGen,” Rinaldi said. “We’re 140 CPCs down just at New York TRACON. Several of our other busy TRACONs are also short; including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Chicago. They’re working six-day weeks. I have a staffing crisis. These are the people you want to test and train on new equipment, but we can’t get them off the boards.”
Rinaldi said the process to create change within the aviation system must be streamlined so long-term planning of modernization and infrastructure projects can be accomplished without the significant delays caused by funding shortages, sequestration, furloughs of controllers, and short-staffing.
“We are falling further and further behind,” he said. “FAA leaders are squished between Congress, the White House, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Personnel Management — it’s a strangulation against moving forward. If we continue to ignore the current problems with our funding, infrastructure, and staffing, we will create even more problems.
“Lets be clear and go back to what we saw in 2013. The government proposed closing 238 towers not for safety, but to save money. They went to a fix-on-fail policy for our equipment, not for safety, but to save money. They stopped stockpiling critical equipment at facilities not for safety, but to save money. If we think the government doesn’t have a bottom line, we’re fooling ourselves.”
Rinaldi pointed out that NextGen projects like ERAM (En Route Automation Modernization) took 15 years to deploy and was billions of dollars over budget. He described that the program still isn’t perfect and there are no funds to fix it. STARS (Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System) is another example of a hindered NextGen initiative that was developed in the 1980s and is just now being implemented into facilities across the country.
“We’ve tried to streamline processes but the current system only slows down the process,” Rinaldi said. “Something has to give. We need stable, predictable funding and reform to run a dynamic air traffic control system, not more bureaucracy.”
Added Rinaldi: “I wonder what’s going to give first? Our aging equipment? Our staffing? What will give first so people go ‘ah, there’s the problem,’ and actually do something about it?”
“Short-term extensions like we’ve seen in the past are not the answer,” he continued. “We need a comprehensive bill that provides substantial reform and gives us stable, predictable funding.”
Rinaldi also made clear that he does not believe that the U.S. aviation system should necessarily be based on any other system in the world, saying, “We need to build our own system in this country that works for us. Let’s build our own best system. Tell Congress what the best system is for our country because the status quo is completely unacceptable.”
To read more, please click here.
May 25, 2016
THE HILL: “Don’t Let Our Air Traffic Control System Become the D.C. Metro of the Skies”
By Paul Rinaldi, NATCA President
Please click here to read this op/ed column.
MORE NEWS AND MEMBERSHIP UPDATES:
May 13, 2016: NATCA President Paul Rinaldi Speaks on Modernization of the Air Traffic Control System at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Please click here.
Apr. 18, 2016: The Senate FAA Reauthorization Bill and NATCA’s Position On It. Please click here.
March 10, 2016: Senate Commerce Committee Unveils Its Version of FAA Reauthorization Bill. Please click here.
Feb. 24, 2016: Update on FAA Reauthorization as Senate Becomes Next Focus. Please click here.
Feb. 15, 2016: The Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 or the AIRR Act. Please click here.
Feb. 12, 2016: Update on House T&I Committee Hearing, and Mark-Up of AIRR Act. Please click here.
Feb. 3, 2016: NATCA Offers Support for Air Traffic Control Reform Proposal Before Congress. Please click here.
Feb. 2, 2016: A Message From the NATCA National Executive Board. Please click here.
May 2016: Video of the opening presentation by NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, which includes a special ATC reform panel discussing the experience of our brothers and sisters of CATCA, who work for NAVCANADA. Please click here to access our members-only video channel page, which will then give you the credentials needed to easily view the video.
March 2016: NATCA Communicating For Safety panel: International Air Navigation Service Provider discussion, led by NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and including Canada, U.K., and Australia. Please click here.
THE FAA REAUTHORIZATION BILL, H.R. 4441, PASSED BY THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: FAA Bill Hearing, Feb. 10, 2016
- WATCH video of the hearing.
- READ NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s testimony.
- BILL MARK-UP: Feb. 11, 2016
BACKGROUND: WHAT NATCA HAS SAID ON THIS ISSUE
- Dec. 11, 2015: NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert Speaks on Women in Government Relations Funding Panel, Hosted by Venable, LLP
- Sept. 18, 2015: NATCA President Paul Rinaldi Participates on Panel at Air Force Association Conference
- Summer 2015: NATCA Column in Air Traffic Control Association Quarterly Magazine (Pg. 21-23), “Safety and Efficiency Must Remain the Main Mission”
- July 24, 2015: NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert participates on “Transformational FAA Reform” Panel
- July 9, 2015: NATCA Leadership on Panel About Air Traffic Reform at Transportation Research Board
- June 4, 2015: NATCA President Paul Rinaldi Speaks at RTCA Aviation Symposium on FAA Reform
- June 3, 2015: NATCA President Paul Rinaldi article in Eno Transportation Weekly, “Imploring Senate Committee to Guarantee Stable Funding, Not Just Address FAA Structure”
- May 21, 2015: NATCA Insider Article About May 19, 2015 Testimony Before Senate Commerce Committee Hearing
- NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s May 19, 2015 Testimony Before Senate Commerce Committee Hearing
- NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s April 25, 2015 Column in Eno Transportation Weekly
- NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s April 20, 2015 Speech to Aero Club of Washington
- March 26, 2015: NATCA Insider Article About March 24, 2015 Testimony Before House T&I Committee
- NATCA President Paul Rinaldi’s March 24, 2015 Testimony Before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Aviation (FAA Reauthorization hearing)
- Dec. 11, 2014: At ALPA Event, NATCA Offers Blunt Assessment of System Funding Situation, if Left Unchanged: “With Sequestration, the Future is Bleak”
- Nov. 20, 2014: Rinaldi Denounces Sequestration, Calls for Aviation System Funding Certainty, at House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing on FAA Reauthorization
MANY REASONS WHY THE STATUS QUO IS UNACCEPTABLE, INCLUDING:
The Lasting Impacts of Sequestration
Sequestration is an automatic, across-the-board cut of federal spending. Congress included the threat of sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011 as a way to encourage lawmakers to agree to measures that would reduce the size of federal budget deficits. But when no compromise was reached in January 2013, the mandatory cuts went into effect for most departments and agencies.
In March 2013, sequestration forced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to cut $492.9 million from its Operations budget, which includes pay for the air traffic controller workforce. This forced the FAA to furlough controllers, which led to a week of severe air traffic delays. After NATCA and its allies complained, Congress passed a law that promptly ended furloughs for FAA employees.
But the impacts had a ripple effect. The FAA Academy was closed for most of 2013, meaning it was unable to hire new trainees. This hiring freeze worsened an already critical air traffic control staffing situation. The system is still suffering as a result.
Federal Government Budget Uncertainty
Congress funds the federal government through annual appropriations bills. Unfortunately, this process has been hampered by partisan debates. In October 2013, Congress failed to pass a funding bill and the government shut down for 16 days. Congress finally passed a continuing resolution to fund the government at its existing level and has struggled to keep funds flowing ever since. Budget uncertainty has become a political staple.
The FAA cannot continue to increase the safety and efficiency of our national airspace without a stable funding stream. NATCA has long advocated the routine passage of annual budgets and appropriations bills without resorting to short term funding legislation that prevents the FAA from following through on vital long-term projects.
NATCA will continue to work with Congress, the Administration and allies to ensure the FAA is properly funded in order to maintain the safety and efficiency of our airspace.