As Congress Stalls, Air Traffic Creeps Toward Gridlock
Congress still hasn’t agreed on how to fund the Federal Aviation Administration, which means the agency will keep muddling through on a shoestring budget that keeps the lights on but does nothing to prevent the air traffic meltdown everyone knows is coming.
There’s little chance Congress will approve a reauthorization package before the stop-gap measure that’s been paying the bills expires in March. The reauthorization lays out a blueprint for meeting the air transportation system’s needs and creates the mechanism to pay for it. Another six-month extension would cover the FAA’s operating expenses, but it wouldn’t finance the improvements that must be made. Topping the list is the NextGen air traffic control network that will replace a system built on World War II technology. Getting the $20 billion system in place is imperative. Without it, the FAA says the nation’s air traffic control system will be effectively gridlocked by 2015.