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Sen. Cruz: By Coming Together We Can Reform the Air Traffic Control System and Ensure Americans Can Always Be Flying

Delivers introductory remarks as chairman of hearing to examine modernizing the Air Traffic Control System

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, today is chairing a hearing on "Improving Air Traffic Control for the American People: Examining the Current System." Today's hearing is the first in a series of hearings Sen. Cruz will be chairing to examine the current state of the United States' Air Traffic Control (ATC) system. Witnesses will discuss challenges and highlight possible improvements to the efficiency and safety of the ATC system.

During Sen. Cruz's introductory remarks, he expressed his concerns regarding the United States' outdated ATC system and reaffirmed his commitment as chairman to work with stakeholders to find a solution that will make air travel more efficient and reliable for Americans:

"Since the beginning of human history, man has dreamed of flight. From the earliest Sumerian depictions of King Etana, to those famous 12-seconds at Kitty Hawk, to the invention of super-sonic aircraft, we have pushed the bounds of what is possible and we've revolutionized travel in the process. What was once novel-and yes, even dangerous-has become commonplace bordering on mundane, and is, year over year, the safest way to travel in the world. In 2018 alone, U.S. and foreign airlines carried a combined 1 billion passengers-roughly one eighth of the entire global population-and right now I can fly from DC to Texas for less than $100. We have democratized transportation in a way that the Wright brothers could never have imagined.

"This evolution has not come without challenges. From deadly, and often preventable, crashes, to simply setting up a system to manage the traffic in our skies, we have had to engineer safer machines, craft new regulations for industry, and invent new systems to meet our needs. In short, we have had to adapt as the landscape has changed-which brings us to the topic of today's hearing, improving and modernizing Air Traffic Control [ATC] for the American people.

"I want to make clear from the start that, while I'm sure the air traffic control reform efforts of previous Congresses are on the minds of all of our witnesses today, that's not what this hearing is about. While those efforts and the members who engaged in them-including the Ranking Member of this Subcommittee-showed bold leadership in challenging the status quo, we are not here today to re-hash old fights. This is not a hearing on the Shuster proposal, or on the Clinton Administration initiative, or on President Reagan's Commission on Privatization, or any other specific proposal or effort. Rather, the purpose of today's hearing is to examine the current landscape, to discuss what works and what doesn't, and what you, the stakeholders, like and don't like, and to open a new avenue for dialogue.

"Every one of our witnesses here today, in their written testimony, has highlighted that the current Air Traffic Control system has problems. Whether this is certainty of funding, or lack thereof, the slow pace of technological procurement and deployment, or the delays caused by inefficiencies in the current system. So too, however, have every one of our witnesses made unambiguously clear how important aviation is to our nation.

"As everyone knows, last Congress we reauthorized the FAA for another five years. While that bill ultimately didn't have all of the kinds of bold reforms that I would have liked and others would have hoped for, we all now have a unique opportunity in front of us- to look at creating a new system that works for all aviation stakeholders and for the American people, and that ensures that we can always be flying.

"The point of this hearing today is to explore the tangible benefits of what a new, reformed system should contain: better flight plan management for general aviation; more direct routes for commercial flights; lower fuel consumption and emissions; which will lower costs for everyone; and more certainty for the those who do the hard work of running the system.

"On the emissions component alone, the full deployment of a new GPS-based system (ADS-B) could eliminate 14.3 million metric tons of CO2 over 10 years, but unfortunately that effort has been stymied by a system plagued with obstacles that range from funding to bureaucratic inertia.

"Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel on reform. Sixty-four other countries, including our neighbor to the North, have reformed their Air Traffic Control systems, and we can learn from these countries about what has worked and what should be avoided in developing reforms that reap all of the benefits without the pitfalls.

"As I stated earlier, today's hearing isn't about a specific proposal or ideas or about rehashing old fights. It's about resetting the conversation. There is a deal to be had here, a win-win for all of the stakeholders and the American people. And I firmly believe by coming together that we can reform the system and ensure Americans can always be flying.

"I want to thank our witness for appearing and look forward to their testimony."

Sen. Cruz's introductory remarks may be viewed here. Watch livestream of today's hearing here.