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NBAA: Pilot shortages and airspace improvements become focus following regulatory victory

Having recently secured one of its most-notable regulatory victories in decades, NBAA is turning fuller attention toward addressing longstanding, industrywide issues like US airspace modernisation and the easing of a pilot shortage.

"Having the airlines… control of our air traffic system represented what we believe, and many others believe, was an existential threat to our industry," says NBAA chief executive Ed Bolen this morning. "Having that now off the table gives us an opportunity, in a long-term bill, to focus on making NextGen a reality."

Bolen made those comments on the opening day of the show, which comes just weeks after President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill that provides five years of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA for years has received funding only in fits and starts through short-term congressional spending bills, which insiders agree left the agency insufficient financial certainty to execute NextGen airspace modernisations.

The new law, signed by Trump on 5 October, was equally notable for lacking provisions that would have stripped air traffic control (ATC) from the FAA, placing it in a newly created entity managed by industry players.

Big airlines and major politicians, Trump included, had expressed support for such changes on grounds that the FAA, thanks partly to funding uncertainty, has been unable to manage broad airspace modernisations.

But NBAA and general aviation groups fought hard against that idea, saying it would disadvantage their industries by giving massive US airlines too much control over management of US airspace.

They ultimately prevailed – the new law lacks ATC overhaul.

"We are done with the distraction," Bolen says. "Let's get on to the hard work."

That hard work starts with pushing forward airspace improvements, such as moving ATC away from reliance on radar and more toward satellite-based technology like automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B).

Also of significant concern is a pilot shortage roiling the entire aviation industry.

"We need to engage our youth at a much younger age," says NBAA board member and executive committee chair Lloyd Newton. "Let's start talking to them while they're in grade school."

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