JetBlue CEO Barger presses NextGen in talks with President Obama

Washington DC
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JetBlue Airways chief executive Dave Barger used a 28 January meeting with US President Barack Obama to champion the inclusion of funding in the currently-debated economic stimulus package to equip aircraft with technology to operate in the country's next generation (NextGen) air traffic control system.

US aerospace industry associations in December banded together and sent legislators a request for $4 billion in funding for the stimulus, which allocated close to $3 billion to equip aircraft for use in NextGen and $1 billion for the airport improvement programme (AIP).

The US House of Representatives in its proposed stimulus plan largely ignored the equipage funding request, allocating $3 billion for AIP, $500 million for the installation of explosive detection equipment in airports and an allocation of only $150 million to NASA for research and development targeted to NextGen.

Discussions in the US Senate indicate that chamber would allot $200 million for NextGen equipage and about $1 billion for airport funding.

The Senate is also warning NextGen funding could emerge as a major issue as it works to resolve differences with the House in the economic stimulus plan.

Barger was among of handful of CEOs meeting with Obama to specifically discuss the stimulus, and was the sole representative of the airline industry.

"The aviation industry needs increased federal investment in our nation's air traffic control infrastructure in order to best serve the travelling public and stimulate economic growth for the United States," says Barger.

Barger believes investment in NextGen would "enhance capacity and energy efficiency, thereby reducing recent record delays and congestion in our nation's busiest airports".

JetBlue's CEO also spoke to President Obama about the need to address congestion in the New York airspace, says a carrier spokesman.