...Taking Positions On Airports, Privatization, Flight Service

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The administrator addressed Meigs directly: "What happened to Chicago's Merrill C. Meigs Field on March 30 ... was a travesty. The national air system is national. No one should carve out a piece at will." Blakey then noted the reauthorization bill's "Meigs Provision," which, for those paying attention, does not claim airports for the FAA, but fines those who might close one without at least a requisite 30-day notice. Asked after her speech if privatization might extend beyond the proposed 69 towers and on to Flight Service, Blakey said, "this is an area where the FAA is actively looking at the private sector option." The administrator said of the current system, "It's costing $500 million per year. That's $27 for every single communication Flight Service has. We don't think that's efficient." However, the administrator made clear that the FAA is moving through a process with both efficiency and enhanced services as the end goal. She reassured the audience that services would not be diminished and that the FAA was interested in what Flight Service says it can do to optimize efficiency. "We want to provide enhanced services ... not just efficient service," Blakey said. Speaking for his masses, AOPA president Phil Boyer added, "We've been actively involved ... rest assured no one wants to pay for a weather briefing. We're not going to make a mistake like that." Blakey restated, for the umpteenth time, that the FAA has no intention to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system and that language in the stalled reauthorization bill allowing for privatization of a fixed number of towers exists to build in flexibility for how the administration allocates resources.