Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The A4A won't give up

I sorta promised, I would go on about my last post. I guess I didn't think it would take a month and a half. I thought either the AIRR bill would get jammed through and there would be no stopping it, or it would go away. It almost went away, it was put on a shelf.

Representative Shuster has left a hole in the budget for a private ATC. Of course Mr Shuster is a little too friendly with the whole A4A crowd. He ought to recuse himself from this discussion. Follow the money they say, well Mr Shuster gets quite a bit of money from the A4A. Draw your own conclusions about weather this gentleman is representing his constituents or not.

So there is an argument, as there always is when congress wants to change the FAA, we are still using "WWII technology called RADAR". Oh my, that antiquated RADAR technology is going to make the aircraft fall out of the sky. Modernization isn't happening as fast a someone wants it to. Satellite based separation is the future and we need it now.

The sad thing is, the FAA's ATC system supports satellite based navigation. The ERAM program added it long ago. ADS-B was part of CARTS that was replaced by STARS/TAMR which had ADS-B 15 years ago. The fact is, the airlines are whining that it will cost them too much to equip older aircraft with ADS-B by 2020. The US Air Force is also complaining that they don't have the budget to make the 2020 ADS-B deadline. The trouble isn't the FAA, the trouble is the users can modernize quick enough.

I guess it makes sense. If they add another bureaucracy to keep the process inefficient, then there will be someone else to blame when they don't make the deadline. The A4A and the airlines seem to be arguing the private ATC corporation will be better, faster and cheaper. NASA learned that lesson a long time ago, better, faster cheaper can't happen. In this case, Faster will be hung up in committees and interfaces. Better will be hung up with new management wanting to change and current employees explaining why the new way won't work. Cheaper, well, government right.

The Shuster/A4A bill will create this fancy corporation. There will be a board to make the critical decisions. Critical decisions will be things like what products should be funded. Since the board will be mostly airline appointments, the choices will generally benefit the airlines more than anyone else. Imaging a 9/11 type situation, where all the flights are ground stopped. Who will pay the corporation for the week the aircraft didn't fly? It'll take a government bailout probably, or the corporation will veto national security, and require the airlines fly their normal schedule.

The Senate FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 2658) is welcomed by many of the aviation groups. I think they will take anything but the AIRR act. There are plenty of things wrong with this bill as well. It may go too far regulating airline fees and seat sizes and a few other things the airlines don't like. Amendments and markup can fix those things. A couple things that are bad in the bill is related to model aircraft, the bill requires training for operators, and safety standards for model aircraft that some argue would be difficult for manufacturers to meet. 

If someone has a rational argument as to how this private ATC system will work, send the comments here. I haven't seen any evidence that this is something other than a power grab by the airlines.

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