Privatization Fight Continues

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To no one’s surprise, those in favor of splitting air traffic control from the FAA are busy planning their next move. After a last-minute grassroots lobbying effort blocked an amendment snuck into the FAA reauthorization bill passed last month that would have laid the legal groundwork for such a move, the CEO of one of the U.S.’s largest airlines was musing about the next steps in front of a friendly audience at the Economic Club of Washington earlier this month. EAA caught a story in Politico that quoted United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz as saying it’s already a topic of conversation when CEOs meet. “The airline industry is trying to formulate what the next plan would be,” Munoz told Politico “There's an outline coming together, but it'll be some time before we all get aligned around it.”

He further said that once the airlines decide what they want they’ll “provide that input and then work with the government to make that move forward.” Well, forewarned is forearmed so EAA says it’s not going to be that easy. “As EAA noted when the ATC privatization proposal in the House was withdrawn earlier this year, any celebration should be tempered with a guarded eye toward efforts by proponents to revitalize the effort in the future,” it said in its recent story. The plan that has so far been thwarted involves setting up a not-for-profit corporation that raises its funding directly from those using the national airspace system. The “user pay” model is opposed by general aviation groups that say the resulting corporation will turn over control of the system to the airlines. “EAA and other GA organizations support the continued modernization of the national airspace system, but not at the cost of equal access to the airspace or minimizing GA’s important role within the nation’s aviation infrastructure,” EAA said in its report.

Comments (11)

32.5% of Private Pilots are 60+ years old and 53% are 50+ years.. That means more pilots are sittting about airports drinking coffee and eating breakfast rather than flying.. FAA data shows fewer VFR and especially IFR flights.. Privatization and a fee based system is not going to kill GA. Changing US demographics and lazy do nothing pilots refusing to fly in the system, when there currently is no flight plan fee's, are the demise of GA..

Posted by: Tom O'Toole | June 18, 2018 10:46 AM    Report this comment

Tom O'Toole, you must be an airline pilot. FYI, General Aviation isn't "private pilots." There are a lot more corporate and commercial pilots out there than there are airline pilots, and they'll either lose their jobs or take a big pay cut if you folks get your way. It's not worth it just so you guys can elbow your way around the sky. No one cares how much profit your parent company stands to rmake.

Posted by: Alan Tipps | June 18, 2018 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Oh kantrere Alan Tipps... A landing fee, gas tax, or flight fee, do not or will not, make or break a corporate flight department.. A strong or weak economy, and/or a accommodative tax code will.. 40+ plus years of flying, yes Part 91, 135 and 121.. I know many of my former classmates at the Chief Pilot or VP of Corporate Flight Departments have shown these assertions to be true.. And, oh yes.. Avoiding a long ATC delay at the passenger terminal having to fly from A, to B, and C or D.. When A to B is so much easier..

In the first time in decades, corporations are advertising for pilots out in the general public, when only inside the good ole boy network was allowed in the past.. Good jobs aplenty.. And no change insight..

Run for the hills, the sky is falling.. Fan the flames of fear..

Privatization is coming.. Maybe not this battle or the next.. But, it will happen..

Posted by: Tom O'Toole | June 18, 2018 5:11 PM    Report this comment

A corporate flight department probably not. But how about a flight school or a drop zone or several other types of pt91 aviation work positions that have multiple takeoffs and landings. These operations usually operate on pretty slim margins to stay in business. Separating piston ops from turbine won't work in this country due to how politics work here. Once you open the door to any kind of "user" fee to a small part of aviation it is only a matter of time before it spreads to other segments. I have flown in Canada and their system seems to work for them. The problem with using their system here is that the Canadian system does not have anywhere near the traffic that the US does. The idea of having to pay a navigation fee or a fee to turn on landing lights at night is not appealing to me. Also if you think the government would replace the current tax system with user fees to fund aviation, I have some swamp land in Arizona to sell you. It will just turn into another tax increase to pay for the collection of those "user" fees. Yes the airlines are the biggest user they also are creating all of the traffic congestion issues. Don't believe me then why does DCA, an airport GA is severely restricted from using, have ground stops due to congestion? Why does DEN, the newest big city airport built over 20 years ago, have congestion ground stops even though it was designed to handle much more traffic than it does. Certainly not from GA traffic. Having a more efficient ATC handling more traffic does no good if there is no more runways to accommodate that traffic. We have already seen how new noise complaints have affected some of the changes in more efficient routing the FAA has already tried.

Posted by: matthew wagner | June 18, 2018 9:19 PM    Report this comment

The airlines in their attempt to control ATC to their benefit are forgetting where their future pilots come from. Although they do not have a shortage of applicants yet, 20 years down the road it could be a real issue especially if flight training costs continue to rise further out of reach because of "user" fees levied on flights. Just look at the Canadians, they are complaining about pilot shortages and they do not have the ATP requirement that the US has for pt121 ops that they can blame it on.

Posted by: matthew wagner | June 18, 2018 9:31 PM    Report this comment

Privatization is a stupid policy proposal from almost any angle. I believe that what opponents should focus on is the extremely strong case of good-public-policy our current system enjoys: the current system is a model of efficiency, calibrating and allocating costs by the gallon consumed. Gallons consumed is a *far* superior measure of use and service consumption than any other scheme ever contemplated. A larger question as to whether the country should kick in any U.S. taxpayer dollars at all for the public good of having an air transportation system by-which-all-other-aviation-systems-are-benchmarked is a separate policy question. Any fool should be able to understand that the answer to that question is 'yes'. If we as a country attempt to create an even more perfect 1:1 relationship between use/consumption and infrastructure, its likely the country would lose the majority of its airports (for certain - there is no business case for most of them if measured in dollars alone) and rapidly hasten the decline of U.S. capability and influence in the world of aviation. Of course thats what's happening elsewhere in public policy too. They are selling our roads to corporations for example. Nowadays in vicinity of any city you go from toll booth to tollbooth paying a corporation for the use of land and roadways owned (or once upon a time owned) by all of us. Every time i pay a toll its a credit to the abject failure of public policy gone wrong, most often at the hands of ideologues in politics who've got no education whatsoever in public policy or economics or public finance. It's sad to watch really.

Posted by: Greg Farah | June 19, 2018 7:22 AM    Report this comment

I find it absolutely HILARIOUS when pilots and Airline bucket mouths claim that delays are derived from ATC....when in fact they are derived by weather, construction, and predominantly the inability of the airlines to not overbook and over demand airport volume. Go ahead and privatize ATC.....I will be waiting to soak up your tears of remorse with airline napkins

Posted by: Kevin K | June 19, 2018 12:49 PM    Report this comment

We have 121 operations, governmental operations, and everything else in aviation falls under General Aviation. GA isnt just over-fifty dudes flying to pancake breakfasts on the weekends. This was my point. GA is every flight instructor and school in the nation, air ambulance operation, air charter company, fractional outfit, and every single corporate flight department.(and yeah I've been a corporate captain for a long time, too) Even top shelf flight departments keep a keen eye on operational cost, and that means belt-tightening. Lets not forget about aerial firefighting, aerial survey, ag application, and FBO rental outlets (hey some people enjoy flying in a free democracy). Like Mr. Wagner said above, where do the airlines think their future pilots are going to come from?

Sneering at general aviation as just a bunch of Dads flying their Skyhawks on the weekends is arrogantly naive. And these folks won't be "the demise of GA" as Mr. O'Toole puts it. It's demise might be hastened by attitudes like his, however.

Posted by: Alan Tipps | June 19, 2018 7:00 PM    Report this comment

Though GA may be declining, that's not a solution to the problem the airlines efforts to co-opt the system are intended to mitigate,. It's the next phase of the cause. Aviation delays, as others point out, are mostly a function of airline concentrating their service in approximately the 60 busiest of the 5000 available public use airports in the US compounded by their insistence on clustering their flights in very few profitable time slots and the dearth of available gates. Airline caused problems are compounded by weather and other circumstances that would exist regardless of whether ATC is public or private.The fact remains that the US airspace is the busiest, safest, best managed and in the process of being substantially modernized with NextGen technology efficiently, despite the chronic uncertain and underfunding of the FAA. Furthermore, the likely emergence as a result of that technology and ADS-B equipped, small, efficient aircraft that can be available on call for point to point service to those 5000 airports, will save passengers untold hours, money and aggravation getting to over taxed hubs, going through security, being subjected to unconscionable abuse by the airlines, being deposited at other hubs, having to get from them to their desired destination. If you review the history of the airlines, you'll find an industry plagued with inefficiency, repeated BANKRUPTCY, bailouts, mismanagement and arcane and anti-competitive practices. Do we really want yet another aspect of our lives, after being subjected to the oligopolistic abuses of fossil fuel, metals, telecom, cable, rail transportation, pharmaceutical and entertainment industries operated for their benefit at the expense of the public. Raise your voices against privatization of ATC!!

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | June 20, 2018 2:01 PM    Report this comment

First ADS-B which EAA and AOPA touted and bent forwards for and the never ending battle for privatization promoted by certain members of the aviation community.

When it's all in place, I can hear the cash registers go kachink, kachink.

Best of luck aviation newcomers.

Posted by: Hans Miesler | June 20, 2018 3:44 PM    Report this comment

The issue is not privatization per se, it's control.

This is a political fight.

If you value your airspace, support those in the fight: NBAA, EAA and AOPA. You're going to have to put your money where your mouth is.

From what i've seen NBAA may be the most active politically but their membership is very expensive. EAA seems to have taken the lead from AOPA but the latter is "not dead yet."

Pick one and stay in the fight.

Posted by: FILL CEE | June 21, 2018 3:42 PM    Report this comment

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