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"No, No, And Again, No." But The Fight Continues…

Various powers-that-be in D.C. insist there is nothing to fear in the new FAA reauthorization bill -- including FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who last week at AirVenture told AVweb, "There are absolutely no plans to privatize air traffic control as we know it." Others through their actions apparently think Blakey is either lying, fickle, or irrelevant in the long term. With no resolution in sight to disputes over privatization language in the bill, the legislation now has been put on hold until after Labor Day, while Congress takes a recess. Among the loudest dissenters, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the bill would allow for the removal of FAA controllers from 69 towers, replacing them with contract workers. Blakey said the FAA already has that option, and has not exercised it. The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) also decried the "disastrous" bill, calling it a threat to aviation safety. "If passed in its current form," PASS President Michael Fanfalone said in a news release last Friday, "this bill will jeopardize the safety of the American public by opening up the functions performed by systems specialists -- who certify the vital equipment that guides over 200,000 commercial flights safely every day -- to privatization."

...AOPA Is OK With Half A Loaf...

AOPA says that although it is "disappointed" in the reauthorization bill's stand on privatization, the legislation does include many features favorable to general aviation, and it would be better to get it passed than to risk further delay and debate. "While we don't like everything about the bill," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a news release last Friday, "we are asking senators to support it by voting 'yes.'" AOPA noted that the bill includes a four-year moratorium prohibiting the FAA from transferring aircraft separation and control functions to any public or private entity other than the U.S. government. However, that is far from a promise not to privatize. "We are disappointed that the bill stops short of declaring ATC as 'inherently governmental,' as AOPA's members wanted," wrote Boyer. "However, the need for passage of [the bill] and the important benefits it contains outweigh the limited moratorium on privatization."

...While NBAA Sees Hope For DCA Access

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), meanwhile, is also urging the business aviation community to ask Congress to support the bill in its current form and get it passed. Of primary concern to the NBAA is a mandate for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a plan that would allow security-qualified GA operators to regain access to Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The NBAA said it has worked hard to get this provision into the current version of the bill and hopes to work closely with the DHS on the development of the security plan. The provision would allow the president to suspend GA operations at any time, citing national security concerns, but the reasons for the suspension would have to be explained to Congress within 30 days.