Former Airline Pilots' Union Chief Chosen to Head FAA

General aviation groups are cheering the nomination of Randy Babbitt to lead the FAA through difficult skies ahead, including the upcoming modernization of its air traffic control system. Babbitt is a pilot and former president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Among his most profound challenges will be to push permanent funding legislation through Congress, following a series of failed attempts going back to the last four-year funding program that expired in 2007. The FAA has been operating on a succession of temporary funding initiatives ever since. Chief among the focal points going forward will be modernization of the antiquated air traffic control system. The Obama administration has expressed its commitment to the NextGen program for air traffic control modernization-a system that places its focus on satellite-based position data transmitted to and from aircraft, rather than relying on radar. Of concern to many in general aviation is the question of how to fund FAA. It is feared that a system of user fees could be implemented, replacing the current combination of general aviation fuel taxes and airline passenger taxes.