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Nick Calio Delivers Keynote Speech at 2024 Inaugural Aero Club Lunch

WASHINGTON – Airlines for America (A4A) President and CEO Nick Calio today addressed the Aero Club of Washington during its first lunch of the year. Calio stressed that urgency in tackling systemic issues—including the air traffic controller shortage and the lagging modernization of FAA physical and technological infrastructure—and government accountability is key to ensuring the safety and integrity of National Airspace System (NAS).

Read Calio’s remarks as delivered here.


ON ACCOUNTABILITY: “As government rightfully keeps industry accountable, so too must the industry demand that government be accountable. It’s a two-way street. We must all work together—with DOT, the FAA and our other government partners—to ensure action is taken to secure our airspace and address the failures of the broader policies that inhibit practical progress, stability and predictability in our aviation system.”

ON THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER SHORTAGE: “Last year, the agency netted a total of just six new certified professional controllers. Six. Single digit. At this rate, it will take decades to fix this problem. We do not have decades. The staffing shortage is having a material and direct impact on the aviation system.”

ON THE COLLEGIATE TRAINING INITIATIVE: “It’s been six months since A4A called for the revival of the CTI program. It’s been three months since the secretary and administrator voiced their support. It’s time for action…We often say there is no silver bullet. This is as close to a silver bullet as you can find. This CTI program can triage the staffing gap. Schools are ready to get students into the pipeline and into ATC facilities now.”

ON FAA INFRASTRUCTURE: “The NAS is more crowded and complex than ever with the evolution of commercial space and other new entrants. While the system has gotten more complex and cutting edge, the platform it operates on is falling behind. One need only look at the state of our ATC facilities to realize that. This, too, was identified in the FAA Safety Review Team’s report. The FAA’s 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers, which largely control enroute air traffic, are located in buildings that are roughly 60 years old, with no current plan or budget to replace any of them.”

ON MODERNIZING TECHNOLOGY: “Air traffic controllers work on a computer system called IDS-4. This is the equivalent to a pilot’s flight bag. It has all the information a controller relies on to run the operations. Deployed in the early 1990’s, this system operates on a platform no longer supported by Microsoft. And get this—you need a floppy disc to upload data…How is the FAA supposed to attract young talent and compete for jobs when they use technology that most 20-30 years old have never even seen?”

ON TRANSPARENCY: “In that same spirit of transparency, there should be public dashboard highlighting DOT and FAA initiatives. What are they? How much do these programs cost? What’s the status of these taxpayer funded projects? When will they be completed? Why? Because all these programs have a direct impact on passengers, shippers, jobs and the greater economy. When our airspace system is old and outdated, we all pay the price.”


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