The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), the union that represents over 11,000 employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) including technicians who install, maintain, repair, and certify the radar, navigation, and communication systems making up the National Airspace System (NAS), are extremely concerned over the FAA’s attempts to make radical changes to its certification policy in order to advance its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and modernization efforts.
For decades, FAA technicians have routinely evaluated and tested the systems and equipment in the NAS, regardless of their ownership, to ensure their safe operation – a successful practice that has been vital in maintaining a safe and efficient air transportation system. However, the FAA has made a drastic change to its policy in order to allow systems and services that are not owned by the FAA to be deployed without certification.
The first system to be impacted by this change is one of the cornerstones of NextGen, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) system. “In essence, the FAA is attempting to eliminate inherently governmental functions in order to justify handing over the NAS to private contractors who are focused primarily on maximizing profits and meeting the absolute minimum of safety standards,” said PASS president Tom Brantley.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Aviation Subcommittee chair Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) have echoed PASS’s concerns in a letter sent today to the Office of the Inspector General (IG). The two chairmen express concern over the changes to the certification policy and the potential reduction of FAA oversight of key systems. Oberstar and Costello are requesting that the IG assess recent changes to the FAA’s certification program and determine the implications of allowing private contractors overall responsibility for the safe and efficient operation of aviation systems. “We commend chairs Oberstar and Costello for their recognition of and swift action on this critical issue and intend to work with the IG to ensure a thorough investigation,” said Brantley.
PASS will testify before the House Subcommittee on Aviation on Wednesday to express concerns over the FAA’s certification policy. In addition, PASS will caution that as the FAA moves forward into new territory, it is ignoring several key issues that have the potential to impact the successful implementation of NextGen, including involvement of stakeholders in modernization efforts and the staffing and training of the FAA technical workforce. A copy of PASS testimony and the letter from Oberstar and Costello will be available on March 18 at www.passnational.org.