The AOPA brought together a group of veteran DC insiders for a panel discussion at their expo this past week (article with video link here): James Coyne (Air Transport Association), Steve Alterman (Cargo Airline Association), Jane Garvey, and Ken Mead. Facing an audience that certainly has its own skepticism about ADS-B, panelists took the opportunity to express their reservations about the NextGen project — at least in its current incarnation.
Jane Garvey, former FAA Administrator: “We don’t know what our vision is for NextGen. No one can define it, no one can really describe it, and no one can say how we’re going to get there over the next 3 to 5 years.”
Ken Mead, former DOT inspector general: “With all respect, NextGen is something that … there’s not much ‘there’ there. It is the functional equivalent of … it’s more of a slogan than anything else. A very clever slogan, I might say, because it has gotten a parade way out in front of it, and only now are people sitting back and saying: what is this thing, how much is it going cost, when is it going to be delivered, what are we going to do with our system for the next five years?
Mead went on to suggest that the new administration might be a source of clear-headed thinking on the issue.
I believe that the Obama administration will come in and identify three big priorities in aviation. One will be labor-management relations. The second will be defining NextGen, costing it out, and really doing the very clinical in-depth surgery on where NextGen is. It would be a very serious mistake if they just say: ‘Oh yeah, let’s go, let’s move out and deploy NextGen, no sweat.’ So that’s the prediction. And number three, of course, will be the financing of FAA.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press published an in-depth list of possible candidates for cabinet-level posts in the new administration. Among the options mentioned for Transportation Secretary: Mortimer Downey, Ed Rendell, and Jane Garvey. (Newsweek also likes Jim Oberstar, Tim Kaine, Kathleen Sebelius, and Valerie Jarrett.)