FAA Nominee Talks About Air Traffic Challenges Ahead

Aviation Week talks with Randy Babbitt, President Obama’s nominee to head the FAA. Babbitt knows he’ll face plenty of challenges:

The NextGen modernization initiative will be a major focus during Babbitt’s tenure. “This is a big investment, and we have one chance to do it right,” Babbitt said. He believes getting system user input will be a key to implementing NextGen — “I want to keep channels open” to industry,” he said.

Another major priority for Babbitt after he is confirmed will be resolving a long-running labor dispute with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said this is a two-part process, and the first step will be addressing the current contract that was imposed on controllers and has remained a sore point. The administration has already acknowledged that this agreement has to be revised, Babbitt said.

Controllers and the administration also have to look at the longer term, and reform the process for negotiating contracts, Babbitt believes. The current process is “too subject to politics…there needs to be a more balanced, neutral approach.” For an initiative as ambitious as NextGen, “we need employees on board,” he said.

Reason Foundation’s Air Traffic Control Research and Commentary