ATC Privatization Gains Support
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.”