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DOT Secretary LaHood reaffirms Obama's NextGen commitment
February 11, 2011
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  • By Aaron Karp

    February 3, 2011

    US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for the nation’s 2012 fiscal year starting Oct. 1, to be delivered to Congress later this month, will “give very clear guidance” to lawmakers and the airline industry that implementing the satellite-based NextGen ATC system remains a “high priority” for the administration.

    Amid talk of spending cuts on Capitol Hill and questions raised in late December by the Dept. of Transportation’s inspector general about FAA’s ability to deliver on NextGen (ATW Daily News, Dec. 24, 2010), LaHood emphasized Wednesday that modernizing ATC is “a very important priority for President Obama.” Though Obama did not mention NextGen when speaking about infrastructure development in his recent State of the Union address to Congress, LaHood insisted the ATC upgrade is included in “the investments we need today” being pushed by the president.

    Speaking to the American Assn. of Airport Executives/Airports Council International-North America Washington Legislative Conference, LaHood noted that navigation “technology we have in our cars these days is more up to date than what we have in our cockpits.” He conceded that airlines have to make a “hard call” on whether to make a “significant upfront investment” in equipping aircraft with NextGen-capable technology.

    Asked by ATW for his guidance to airlines making the difficult decision about whether to equip, he said the proposed 2012 budget will make the calculation easier (although he declined to provide details) and emphasized that NextGen “momentum is building.”

    Speaking to the same conference in Washington via video, new House of Representatives aviation subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) (ATW Daily News, Jan. 21) said, “We are really working very hard É to come up with ideas to really speed up the implementation of NextGen.” He said the House is considering “loan guarantees and other ways” to help airlines finance equipage in the latest version of FAA reauthorization legislation under development.

    Date: 2011-02-03