Venable partner Jim Burnley was interviewed by Law360 and Aviation Pros in July 14, 2016 article on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization passed by Congress and ongoing attempts to modernize the air traffic control system. The reauthorization bill included provisions to increase security around airport perimeters and regulations for unmanned drones.
"The package of aviation security provisions, which are permanent law, appear at first blush to be a combination of reinforcing the authority of TSA and encouraging the TSA to try and be innovative,' Burnley told Law360. "As a package, it strikes me as a substantial positive step forward." Speaking with Aviation Pros Burnley praised the bill’s 14-month reauthorization period as "far superior" to previous short-term bills. "We saw a few years ago without the passage of a multi-year reauthorization we ended up with 23 extensions and some of those extensions were for days or a week or two," he said. "The folks who run the program to cut the checks can’t make the grants that airports have applied for and been approved for…that totally disrupts the process, planning and appropriations and that delays projects."
On the topic of air traffic control modernization and privatization, which was not addressed in the FAA reauthorization, Burnley told Law360, "It takes people a while to get educated and get used to thinking in new ways whether this a good proposal or not…[From the industry,] I don't see any flagging support for it — the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the airlines are all enthusiastically behind this overall, except for a few dissenters. This debate will crank up again in the new Congress in a serious way." In the Aviation Pros interview, he added, "Big ideas and big reforms take time. I think Chairman (Rep. Bill) Schuster is very clear in saying he intends to work on this next year." Noting that American operators see the benefits of privatization and are leading the way for reform, Burnley added, "Their members, the rank and file members, they feel the adverse effects of the annual federal budget process and how it has inhibited going to a GPS-based system from a radar World War II technology that we rely on today. Right now, we’re trying to run a 24-hour per day, seven-day-a-week business like a federal grant program."