Budget Includes ATC Privatization

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President Donald Trump’s new budget includes privatization of air traffic control. The document tabled Thursday in Washington contains an outright endorsement of privatization as a move that “would benefit the flying public and taxpayers overall.” The airline industry has been lobbying nonstop since Trump’s election for the formation of a nonprofit corporation to run the national airspace system controlled by a board of directors dominated by airline representatives. Most general aviation groups have vigorously opposed privatization, saying it would amount to handing the nation’s airspace over to the airlines, something the airlines themselves have suggested is accurate.

The budget calls for a “multi-year reauthorization proposal to shift the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] to an independent, non-governmental organization, making the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety.” It drew immediate support from longtime privatization supporter Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee proposed similar legislation last year but it was stalled by Senate opposition. “The inclusion of this good government infrastructure proposal shows that the president is truly focused on changing the way Washington works,” said Shuster, who has close ties to Aviation 4 America, the national group representing U.S. airlines. 

The committee proposal met intense opposition from most aviation groups although AOPA, the largest of them, said it was open to discussing the move as long as it didn't result in user fees, something it has frequently stated that it flatly opposes. The Trump administration is apparently ready to go through the due diligence part of implementing the program. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is apparently planning to travel to Ottawa, Canada, to meet with leaders of NavCanada, the nonprofit corporation that has run the airspace north of the border and over the North Atlantic for 20 years. NavCanada charges most light aircraft operators in Canada a flat fee of $68 a year for access to all but the country’s 10 busiest airports. Commercial operators pay for access on a fee-for-service basis and are billed for air traffic control services.

Comments (15)

This should help make America great again...

Posted by: Lamberto Roscioli | March 16, 2017 6:00 PM    Report this comment

No surprise here.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | March 16, 2017 9:04 PM    Report this comment

He's really determined to ruin everything, isn't he?

Posted by: MICHAEL KOBB | March 17, 2017 1:13 AM    Report this comment

As a founding member of the NAV Canada management team, I can say that it, if that if this is done right, this shouldn't be a problem for GA, should significantly lower costs for the airlines and open the door to the modernization of the ATC system. Fees at NAV Canada for small GA aircraft have not increased since inception 20 years ago, and as a pilot I have only seen increases in the quality of service.

Posted by: Scott Eaton | March 17, 2017 6:59 AM    Report this comment

"As a founding member of the NAV Canada management team, I can say that it, if that if this is done right, this shouldn't be a problem for GA, should significantly lower costs for the airlines and open the door to the modernization of the ATC system. Fees at NAV Canada for small GA aircraft have not increased since inception 20 years ago, and as a pilot I have only seen increases in the quality of service."
Well....that's how it works---in CANADA. This is America, home of the rich and powerful who want to own the skies, who could care less about us little fish and will, if at all possible, destroy GA in a heartbeat. That's what we deal with here on a daily basis. And it WILL kill us off if implemented. We are truly screwed. Make America Great again my ***......

Posted by: Michael Livote | March 17, 2017 7:30 AM    Report this comment

First Obama Care, now Ryan Care, and now ATC privatization....I've got a BAD feeling about this!

Posted by: Douglas Olson | March 17, 2017 7:40 AM    Report this comment

After Obama Care, now Ryan Care, a crooked IRS, failing Depart of Education, VA Administration working against veterans, Democrats & Republican unable to legislate for the benefit of all our CITIZENS. So now we're suppose to trust a bunch of penny loafered MBAs who have trashed what use to be execellent air carrier service. .I've got a BAAAD feeling about all of this!

Posted by: Douglas Olson | March 17, 2017 8:40 AM    Report this comment

ADS-B will help with the collection of fees that are sure to follow.

Posted by: Hans M | March 17, 2017 9:13 AM    Report this comment

Plenty of people who are pilots probably voted straight ticket Team Red. This is the result. I don't like this, but elections have consequences.

Posted by: Joe Servov | March 17, 2017 10:07 AM    Report this comment

I think some things are indeed inherently governmental, and ATC is one of them. If FAA wants to contract out some of the small and zero complexity facilities, if that saves money, which they have and which it does, I guess, that works as long as FAA is the daddy of those facilities and provides strict oversight. But to privatize the bigger and very complex facilities, to me, would be like privatizing the Los Angeles police department or the L.A. County Sheriffs Dept. And to use Canada, some European countries privatized ATC as a good example is like apples and oranges. The closest any other is to ours in size is probably 20% at best. Do a mid morning screen shot off flight aware or one of those live radar traffic sites sometime if you want to see the incredible volume of traffic wandering the US skies at any time.

Posted by: Roger Anderson | March 17, 2017 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Roger - you are saying there is a relationship between the complexity of the system and the ability of a private vs government organization to best handle it? Please explain why the government is better at handing a more complex system.

Posted by: Ken Keen | March 17, 2017 1:19 PM    Report this comment

It's really all about the Benjamins.

Many GA pilots hate government interference with their flying, until they think that Free Enterprise is going to cost them money in user fees. Then they want that big bad Government to protect their pocketbooks.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | March 17, 2017 1:40 PM    Report this comment

"Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is apparently planning to travel to Ottawa, Canada, to meet with leaders of NavCanada, the nonprofit corporation that has run the airspace north of the border and over the North Atlantic for 20 years."

As a Minnesotan--I fly in Canada a lot. I hope that this "fact finding mission" looks at ALL of the facts. 1. Canada has a fraction of the aircraft movements that the U.S. does.
2. Most of that air traffic is within a couple of hundred miles of the U.S. border.
3. Beyond the border, ATC can get pretty sparse. Radar is almost non-existent at 10,000' and below. In northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, radar is only available above approximately FL 200.
4. Much of the sparsely populated area is class G. IFR flight is permitted without a clearance. In much of the north, pilots "self control"--"Leaving C*** for C***, climbing through 10,000" until getting within radio (not radar) range of a controller--who will then ask for position reports and ETAs for specific points. I've been dropped off of a "controller" at FL 240 and told "Contact Thompson radio 100 miles out."
5. Most smaller Canadian airports operate with a pseudo "flight service"--they give advisories, and will relay clearances from center--but they operate with the "one in--one out" process--the next aircraft to takeoff and land can't be cleared until Center has control of the first one. It results in a lot of holding--for the approach, or on the ground before departure.
6. For much of the country, ATC is "1950s vintage"--a few remote communication outlets--and one controller "controls" airspace for hundreds of miles--I've traveled from just west of Winnipeg to Watson Lake--hundreds of miles--while talking to the same controller--and that was possible only because I was flying a jet.
7. Canada is slow to adopt new technology--there are still a lot of ADF approaches there.
8. Perhaps the most vexing issue is the horde or "user fees". With unbundling, you are charged landing fees and parking fees from airports. With our King Air, we have to wait at least 2 months to receive our bill for ATC charges--the last one was $84.00 from north of Minot to Regina--less than 1 hour flight each way in Canadian airspace. I then have to call to pay the bill by credit card--then wait until they process it (another week)--then wait until the card company sends my bill (including a foreign transaction fee). Hard to charge back the using company that way.
9. The Canadians found that the cost of administering the program for aircraft weighing less than 6000 pounds was higher than the collected revenues.
10. People naturally avoided filing flight plans to escape the user fees. Is this a GOOD thing?
11. Like the proposal by the U.S.--the Canadians said "the cost of fuel will go down without the taxes used to fund the FAA." It didn't. Does anyone REALLY believe that the costs will go down? It amounts to double taxation.
12. The ATC system serves the airlines--and the military. The incremental cost of serving General Aviation is there or not is negligible.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 17, 2017 2:10 PM    Report this comment

(CONTINUED)

I'm a very vocal opponent of big government--but since ATC costs will be incurred with or without General Aviation--there is no reason to assess fees. I would go along with AOPA to get rid of FAA bloat and inefficiency (think of the difference between "contract towers" and FAA towers, for example) PROVIDED there are no user fees.

Posted by: jim hanson | March 17, 2017 2:11 PM    Report this comment

Jim, all excellent points except one - a King Air isn't a jet.

Posted by: Ken Keen | March 21, 2017 9:39 AM    Report this comment

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