...FAA Says It's About Flexibility
Despite the high-level deal-making, political intrigue and Capitol Hill name-calling the issue has precipitated, the FAA continues to maintain that it has no plans to privatize any of the towers. Communications Director Greg Martin told AVweb the agency just wants to keep the option open in case operational conditions require it. "The FAA wants to preserve its flexibility to convert VFR, non-approach towers if circumstances warrant it," Martin said. He said looming retirement of thousands of government controllers and future funding constraints make that flexibility necessary. "They all add up to how we deploy our resources," he said. Martin also characterized the privatization issue as relatively insignificant compared to all of the measures in the bill that are currently on hold. "We simply cannot continue to withhold a $60 billion bill to aviation over this issue," he said. "We need to move and we need to pass this bill." Despite the intensity of the debate in recent weeks, alphabet groups aren't showing much appetite to get involved in the fray. The National Air Transportation Association and AOPA have both said in the past that the bill should not be held up because of the privatization issue.