Politicians Weigh In On ATC Privatization

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Political momentum is gathering against the proposal to fundamentally change the way the federal government funds and administers the National Airspace System. A week after two influential Republican congressmen categorically stated that no new user fees would be accepted to fund a privatized system, two Democratic members are joining a grassroots liberal movement  to end the whole privatization debate. In a statement released Tuesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said they were joining an online petition that has gathered 130,000 names to stop the privatization bid. "An FAA reauthorization bill that includes severing and privatizing Air Traffic Control has not emerged, but, as petitions submitted today from the public demonstrate, the long suspense has understandably fed fears for public safety, loss and downgrading of middle class jobs, and increased costs passed on to passengers — unacceptable tradeoffs," Norton said in a statement quoted by The Hill.  A week before, Republican GA advocates Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) wrote an opinion piece in the The Hill that suggests they've heard the aviation industry's concerns about "per-flight" user fees clearly.

In the article, the congressmen say they're in favor of kicking the table over on the current system but not if it hurts GA. "We have stood front and center in the fight against per-flight user fees on general aviation," they wrote. "That position remains unchanged, and we would not even entertain this transition discussion if we found out it would harm the general aviation community. Ultimately, we want to ensure that these aviators reap the benefits of a modern, efficient air traffic control system." The system they envision is a "user-funded, user-governed, not-for-profit organization, all in a manner that protects the small aircraft operators and private pilots who use the system." The debate is ramping up as the deadline to pass a reauthorization bill for the FAA looms on March 31.