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February 2016 FAA Hearing

Last week there was an important hearing in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill concerning the newly proposed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill. In attendance were members of the transportation committee, experts from the field of aviation, protestors, and aviation workers such as pilots and flight attendants. There was such a large crowd that staffers were directed to open an overflow room where the hearing was livestreamed.

Leading the hearing was chairman of the transportation committee, Bill Shuster (R-PA). Other key members were Peter DeFazio, Rick Larsen, Jon Mica, and Lou Barletta. Day one of the hearing lasted almost eight hours.

The first topic discussed was America’s current state of aviation. Post World War II, America crafted an innovative and powerful aviation industry. Currently, we are still the safest and most advanced flight industry. However, our future looks uncertain.

Canada is on the rise and our technology is becoming more outdated with each passing day. Canada will soon launch an air campaign allowing them access to 100% of airfields. America currently only has access to 75%. We have not effectively updated our technology systems since their installation circa the 1960’s. If this issue keeps getting pushed aside, our communication towers will no longer be able to correspond with airplanes. We are not modern at all when it comes to aviation, and if this situation keeps getting prolonged it will be too late to modernize. Our technology will be too far gone, incapable of interacting with newer information systems.

America is the only country where this topic causes strife. Other’s countries understand what they need to do and converge on how to make their objectives a reality. Bills to update our air systems have been circulating for the last 30 years. There are books of studies performed since the 1990’s on how to modernize aircraft for use by taller than the average upright man. So far $70 billion worth of hard-earned taxpayer money has gone towards improving our aviation system which has resulted in no advancement. If we continue to wait, the cost of revamping our systems could double or triple from $20 billion additional dollars to an even more exorbitant amounts.

The air industry is responsible for twelve million jobs. America cannot afford to push those jobs into extinction. First and foremost in the fight on better airways should be safety and jobs. Everything else should fall somewhere behind.

One decision that could further jeopardize airline jobs is to continue moving towards further deregulation. There used to be almost 40 airlines and now all that remains are the big four. This has created a monopoly. Customers are always the ones to suffer when a monopoly is present. It allows large companies to manipulate prices and regulations to fit their own greedy agendas. An analogy used in the hearing to describe what it would be like to put a large company as the overseer of the air industry was “a fox in charge of a chicken coop”.

To solve this problem Congressman Bolen stated that there are three things that the government needs to do: 1) find out where we are now; 2) decide where we want to be; and, 3) agree on a strategy to reach our goals.

The key to accomplishing our goals is a stable funding system. The government needs to spend wisely, save taxpayer dollars while providing safe air travel, and not create policies that lead to monopolies.

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