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Sat, Jun 02, 2012

ATC Update Plan Faces Delay

Congressional Deadline Looms In Two Weeks

The FAA’s plan to consolidate hundreds of outdated ATC facilities is still not ready with two weeks to go before the Congressionally-mandated deadline. This could potentially delay the $40 billion program to modernize the United States’ air traffic control system.

The hangup is that there is no agreement yet on plans to close, consolidate or realign over 400 ATC facilities across the nation, many of which are in disrepair. A big component of the upgrade is NextGen, and the new system is reliant upon the consolidation of ATC facilities; a process that could take as long as two decades. The deadline from Congress is part of the FAA reauthorization signed into law in February; at that time the FAA was given 120 days to submit a plan.

 Members of the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Aviation expressed frustration that the FAA waited until the last minute to finalize the plans. The Miami Herald reports that Rep. Peter DeFazio asked if the agency would have enough time to draft a plan that affects thousands of workers and represents billions of dollars of investment.  "We're going to have something comprehensive nine days after you sit down with the people you identify as the principal stakeholders?" he said.

According to Niel Wright, spokesman for Wisconsin Rep. Tom Petri, Congress wouldn’t give the FAA an extension and the Transportation Committee would exert pressure on the agency to finish the plan. "Government agencies need the cooperation of Congress, so they generally try to cooperate in return," he said.

The FAA is planning to start the consolidation process in the notoriously congested airspace of the New York region, a project that will place high-altitude and low-altitude controllers under one roof. The FAA estimates that it will cost $2.3 billion to construct its first four integrated facilities but that it has only $700 million set aside for them."I would hope that the FAA, working with the stakeholders, comes up with a plan that measures the true cost," Costello said.



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