EXCLUSIVE: Interview with House aviation subcommittee chair Jerry Costello (Part 1 of 3)

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Interview published November 19, 2008.

Fly NextGen: Will aviation be a bipartisan issue going into 2009? Do you see compatible visions on both sides of the aisle?
Jerry Costello: I do. Aviation is a large part of our economy in the United States. We have the safest aviation system in the world, but what we have to do is improve it. I think there’s an understanding in the incoming administration as well as the House and the Senate that we need to make improvements. HR 2881 is a good bill, it was a bipartisan bill, we passed it out of the transportation committee on a voice vote, and it passed in the House by a substantial margin. That bill provides historic levels of funding to the Airport Improvement Program, and provides funding to move NextGen forward.

Fly NextGen: A year ago, a lot of people hadn’t yet heard much about NextGen. Has your perspective changed in the last 12 months?
Jerry Costello: I do think that some positive things have happened. The Joint Planning and Development Organization has begun to accelerate their plans. I think there’s been an emphasis in the past several months to get NextGen moving forward. But a lot of questions still have to be answered. We need to make sure it gets done right.

Fly NextGen: Can you be specific? What’s going to give you confidence that we’re on the right track?
Jerry Costello: Well, the FAA does not have the best track record in their attempts to improve the air traffic control system. A lot of money has been spent — not only under this administration — and we have very little to show for it. Once the new Secretary and Administrator are in place, I want to see what those individuals have in mind as far as moving NextGen from where we are today to the next step in the process.

Fly NextGen: At the AOPA Expo early this month, Jane Garvey said: “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 really going to get there over the next 3 to 5 years.” Do you agree with that characterization?
Jerry Costello: Well, I wouldn’t disagree. I think, as I said, that there are more questions than answers. I think that the FAA has had a difficult time explaining exactly … you know, everyone knows what the goal is, the question is, what will the system look like, what will it cost, and how will it be implemented?

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