Inside the Fence

April 8, 2000


John Infanger, Editorial Director

April 2000

Yes, it's true. As we go to press, the President is preparing to sign AIR-21, or a semblance thereof, that will bring a three-year funding plan to the U.S. system. Imagine: $3.2 billion for AIP alone in 2001, along with increases for FAA and ATC modernization. The latter remains a concern, as evidenced in our report on page 10 from the FAA forecast conference in Washington.

Former U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta, now a VP with Lockheed Martin, says that without modernization every passenger/user will feel the effects of gridlock. Safety has not significantly increased in 30 years, he says, and with expansion and an outdated system come cause for concern.

Apparently for Mineta, the new funding bill doesn't present all the answers, and industry must continue to tell its story. "It is time for all of us to break out of this box and engage the public in this fight," he says. This from a man who made a point of listening to aviation's needs during his tenure on the Hill.

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Poor Bob Collins. He and two others died in a midair collision at Waukegan Regional Airport, a Chicago reliever to the north.

Collins was a popular radio personality for WGN, and the local media scrutinized the ensuing investigation. Contract tower was a popular story phrase, as was no radar.

A subsequent lawsuit by the parents of one of the victims reportedly names the airport's controllers and their employer, Midwest Air Traffic Control Service, in the suit.

Back in Washington, Administra-tor Jane Garvey told a House transportation appropriations panel that FAA plans to continue its contract tower program this year intact. The agency was looking at cutting funding for as many as 86 contract towers.

Getting back to Mr. Mineta's comments, the track record of the contract tower program suggests that it holds one of the answers to improved movement of the system at more accountable costs.

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Meanwhile, FAA has dusted off the flag that reads grant assurance violation and is waving it at Bader Field in Atlantic City. So much for AOPA's years-long attempt at goodwill.

Bader's airfield, it seems, is not airworthy. The city apparently likes it that way.

* * *

An item in the funding bill calls for a new General Aviation Metro-politan Access and Reliever Airport Grant Fund and some funding that kicks in when AIP is $3.2 billion — which it will be. This has Jim Coyne written all over it. NATA hired him as president because of his political experience as a U.S. Rep. (R-PA).

NATA is pumping considerable resources into its Aviation Access Initiative. The ultimate goal is to create and maintain an infrastructure of business aviation airports that serve as vital links in the national transportation system. One of Coyne's lobbying targets has been to get federal funding to support the program.

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Finally, a milestone ...

A southern gentleman is retiring. Jim Taylor is leaving Piedmont-Hawthorne April 30. He started as a lineman with Piedmont Aviation in 1957. We trust he will find a good fishin' hole to reflect upon the lives he has touched in this industry.

Thanks for reading.