ATC Privatization Shelved

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House Republicans have shelved the controversial reauthorization bill that would have, among other things, created a privatized air traffic control system. The Hill was reporting late Thursday that instead of pursuing the full reauthorization bill, the House will instead concentrate on passing a short-term extension of the current authorization, which expires on March 31. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who championed the privatization move, said in a statement the idea is still alive. "This is an ongoing process, and we will continue working to educate members and address questions they have about the bill," he said in the statement. "The need for an extension was not a surprise, and details about the short-term measure are still being discussed." If the House didn't back off on the bill, the Senate was apparently ready to do it for them, however.

According to Politico, the Senate was getting impatient with the protracted debate over something it clearly saw as a non-starter and was preparing its own reauthorization bill without the privatization element. "We're not going to wait that much longer," Chairman John Thune said Thursday. "So we'll probably look at marking something up in the next couple of weeks and try to get it on the floor in April." Aviation group opposition to the privatization bid was a key factor in the House move. The work ahead will likely result in a much different approach to the issue. The biggest concern among opponents was the heavy influence of major airlines (four of 11 votes) on the board of directors that would have resulted from the structure that was envisioned. A few other things of interest to GA were lost with the shelving of the bill. A pure form of the driver's license medical (no medicals at all for most private pilots), the guarantee that no user fees would result from the new ATC corporation and the unfettered ability to build homebuilt aircraft in hangars at airports were also included in the bill.