Elaine Chao Named New DOT Boss

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Elaine Chao to be his transportation secretary.

Ms. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, would join South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, tapped for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and charter-school advocate Betsy DeVos, picked for education secretary, as women named to top roles in the Trump administration.

If confirmed, she would play a key role in what Mr. Trump hopes to be his first legislative victory: A major infrastructure bill to rebuild America’s highways and bridges, which some Republicans in Congress have resisted under the
Obama administration.

Ms. Chao, whose post is subject to confirmation by the Senate, would inherit a landscape of record safety recalls in the automotive industry and urgent efforts to police development of self-driving cars.

The Obama administration endorsed the development of self-driving cars in recent months, citing the technological promise of reducing traffic fatalities. But officials also expect auto makers to comply with new voluntary guidelines that call for them to self-certify driverless cars before they hit the road, detailing items such as safeguards should technologies fail.

A skilled bureaucrat and manager, Ms. Chao will also have the task of managing the FAA and getting the NextGen program completed.
Rotor & Wing’s Amy Kluber wrote the following:

Chao is an advocate of privatization and of reduced government regulation. After her eight years as Labor secretary, she returned to conservative Washington D.C. think tank Heritage Foundation. Chao was serving as a distinguished fellow there, doing research on jobs and the economy, trade and competitiveness issues, when Trump selected her.

Her nomination comes at a time when Congress is enmeshed in a debate over the pros and cons of privatizing the FAA’s air traffic organization. Major U.S. airlines have long argued that privatization would increase the efficiency and streamline budgeting for that organization, whose operations and improvement initiatives have been hobbled in past years by appropriations battles in the House of Representatives and Senate.

The airline-backed privatization effort has won the support of Rep. Bill Schuster, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The proposal calls for an air traffic organization financed by user fees and overseen by a board dominated by
airline representatives.

Other major aviation groups in Washington oppose such a privatization move. Those groups include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., Airports Council International-North America, American Assn. of Airport Executives, General Aviation Manufacturers Assn., Helicopter Assn. International and National Business Aviation Assn.

In a June 2015 meeting to discuss the privatization effort, HAI President Matt Zuccaro said, “Today, I know that I can go to Congress and get a hearing on our members’ operational concerns. But I can’t imagine having to go to a panel of airline companies, and asking them to focus on priorities for
low-flying helicopters.”

After Trump’s selection of Chao, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen praised
the move.

“We know that investment in infrastructure, including for aviation, is a priority for the incoming Trump administration, and the DOT secretary will be key in making this priority a reality,” Bolen said. He congratulated Chao on her nomination, adding, “We look forward to working with her to continue promoting general aviation, and building on the progress being made toward a Next Generation aviation system that serves and protects all stakeholders and communities.”

I checked in Aviation Week and found another significant announcement which because it is not a Cabinet appointment has received almost no attention.

Chris Shank will lead the Trump administration’s NASA transition team. Shank was NASA chief of staff under the administration of former president George W. Bush, and serves on the staff of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee as space policy advisor to committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Here’s the thing – or a couple of them. First, the FAA must be reauthorized again
in 2017.
In 2016 when Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., introduced H.R.4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, it was the ATC privatization portion of the bill which derailed it in the House and led to the Senate drafting their own version. As we reported previously both Shuster and LoBiondo are back.
In AIN Online, Shuster was quoted as saying that he would work with Chao and the President-elect “To make responsible investments in our infrastructure, streamline transportation improvements, reduce regulatory burdens, encourage private-public partnerships and encourage innovation to preserve and strengthen America’s economic competitiveness.”
H.R.4441 also included some very specific ideas about UAS regulation, most all of which were captured in the final FESSA bill. In the hue and cry of the campaign, there has been no word on the implementation of most of those 13 provisions.
But the Rotor & Wing article does leave you to wonder if the ATC is privatized and given the constant, often hysterical near misses around airports exactly how this might play out.
So let’s be playful here and use our imaginations.

If privatizing the ATC would be good, why not privatize the development and management of the UTM too?

Remember that you read it here first. Awful easy to imagine the big money getting fired up for that… And it might not be a bad thing since the interest in UTM is largely commercial.
And as an aside did you notice the self-certifying comment about autonomous cars? Could it be that is where the idea came from and how it got into the Small UAV proposal and soon to be NPRM? Hmm…

read more at wsj.com

read more at Rotor & Wing