ALPA, NATCA Co-Host NextGen Symposium: Users’ Perspective

More than 700 ALPA line pilot aviation safety representatives, air traffic controllers, and representatives of government and industry groups gathered today in Washington, D.C., and participated online to discuss and debate a “howgozit” review of NextGen, the modernization program for the U.S. air traffic control system. ALPA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) co-hosted the one-day symposium.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, acknowledged that “most members of Congress don’t know much about NextGen, nor does the general public,” which is why he and other members of Congress have recognized the need for “stakeholder listening sessions” through which Congress has gathered input from key aviation stakeholders. NextGen, LoBiondo declared, has “so much at stake for the nation—and for you, individually, as pilots and controllers.” He warned, “We cannot afford any slippage” in the NextGen schedule, and vowed to continue to work diligently toward its implementation.

Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA president, declared, “The time to act decisively to move NextGen forward is now—right now.” He added, “We need a paradigm shift from ‘first come, first served’ to ‘best capable, best served.’ We need incentives for our airlines to equip with the latest technology to enable NextGen; strong, consistent leadership in our federal government; and a steady stream of funding for NextGen.”

Paul Rinaldi, NATCA president, warned, “Sequestration is going to have a gigantic effect on NextGen—it’s the ‘kryptonite’ of NextGen.”

Capt. Sean Cassidy, ALPA first vice president and national safety coordinator, said, “We need to expand beyond the bubble we work and live in” and communicate the message about the need for NextGen to a broader audience, including the general public.

Capt. Chuck Hogeman, ALPA aviation safety chair, said ALPA has three core values regarding NextGen: “We want NextGen to improve safety, we want pilot-centric solutions, and we want global interoperability.” He also stressed, “ALPA policy is very clear: We will only accept aircraft separation provided by well-trained, professional air traffic controllers.”

Panelists provided user perspectives on the value already added by NextGen and the promise of future development. Another panel discussed the critical need for establishing a steady, reliable, independent stream of funding for NextGen, agreeing unanimously that the current funding system is “broken.”

View a slide show of the symposium.

More coverage of the event will be published in the August issue of Air Line Pilot.