ATC Privatization Gains Support

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Proposals to spin off air traffic control from the FAA to be handled by a private agency charging user fees gained support on Wednesday in Washington, but it was still unclear if the plan has enough momentum to become reality. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a letter to Sen. John McCain that his department is “supportive of a possible privatization of ATC services and recognizes the potential risks.” The support from Mattis could be key, according to The Hill. “It’s a huge deal,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told reporters. Concerns over security have long been cited by those who oppose the change, Shuster said. “And Secretary Mattis is saying we support it.” President Trump and major airlines also have expressed support for privatization.

The FAA’s infrastructure is increasingly obsolete, and its technology is from the last century, Shuster said at the hearing. “As a result, shocking amounts of tax dollars and time have been wasted over the last 35 years,” he said. General aviation advocates have long lobbied against privatization schemes, arguing that the proposed changes would help the airlines while hurting private flyers. “If the system is privatized, who will effectively control this monopoly, and for whose benefit?” asked Ed Bolen, president of NBAA, in a statement issued Wednesday. "Concerns over the answer to that question have been raised by aviation groups, organizations on the political left and right, members from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate, mayors from across the country and a majority of American citizens.”

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi testified before the committee that his organization supports reform of the ATC system to ensure a “stable and predictable funding stream.” He added it’s key that the system continue to support “safety and efficiency as top priorities and continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community, from commercial passenger carriers and cargo haulers to business jets and to general aviation, from the major airports to those in small communities and rural America.” Airline officials didn’t appear at the hearing, apparently in response to recent public-relations incidents. “Perhaps they recognize that the American people are not interested in giving more control to the airlines,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a member of the panel, “when, between dragging a passenger off a plane and massive computer failures, they can't even get their own houses in order.”

Comments (4)

How well did user fees benefit general aviation in France? Germany?
Anything that hurts GA is the wrong direction and is basically anti-American.
Government was entrusted to protect this activity, not just hand it over to a 3rd party who will kill it.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 19, 2017 7:02 AM    Report this comment

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

With "big iron" airlines and executive jet owners running the show, because they'll carve out a nice "business friendly" exemption to get the private jet crowd onboard. Then? Game over for the little aluminum cans.

Posted by: Joe Servov | May 20, 2017 9:54 PM    Report this comment

I seem to recall that the Trump Administration was going to have GA's interests at heart because Mr. Trump has his own jet. I guess it's different now that he's flying around in Air Force One.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | May 21, 2017 12:52 AM    Report this comment

User fees have seriously hurt cruising sail and power boats throughout the US. Why would such fess not hurt GA?

This action assumes all privatized ATC systems will be the same from region to region, airport to airport.

From where will the privatized ATC system operators obtain the funding for investment/upgrades?

How will upgrades occur? Will it require a consensus vote of all the ATC privatized system operators, a simple majority vote, or a directive from the FAA or other governmental body?

How will fees be determined, and by who; the airlines, the ATC system operators, the FAA or other governmental body?

Will the fees be universal, or vary from ATC system operator to operator?

Any privatized ATC system operator would have to place income as top priority or otherwise go bankrupt and leave a huge hole in the ATC network. What happens then?

Who on any day does not derive some benefit from the current ATC system, whether that person is receiving mail, over-night delivery of goods, is a GA pilot/passenger, an airline passenger, and is protected by our national defense?

Do we really want to gamble with our multi-trillion dollar economy and national defense to profit a few corporations who will collect the fees?

Better to make the FAA more accountable to meet the needs of aviation and, by extension, our country.

Posted by: Kenneth Jones | May 22, 2017 12:52 PM    Report this comment

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