A controversial ATC privatization plan has been removed from an FAA reauthorization bill in the House of Representatives, scoring a victory for general aviation against a powerful, well-financed lobby that sought to give control of the national air traffic system to the country’s largest airlines.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) announced Feb. 27, 2018, that he is removing ATC privatization from H.R. 2997 and moving toward an FAA reauthorization bill that can pass both houses in Congress.
Shuster, who is retiring after this year’s election, had attempted to garner enough votes to bring the privatization plan to the full House on several occasions over the past year.
“This is a tribute to all of you in general aviation who took the time to make yourself heard,” said Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) CEO/Chairman Jack J. Pelton. “Thanks to the unified fight by the GA community, this bill was not going to pass with ATC privatization as part of it. We can now move ahead with what we have maintained all along — modernization, not privatization. We can fund the FAA long-term and let the agency continue with its already progressing modernization efforts.
“I want to thank every one of the grassroots aviators who took time to call, write, and visit their congressional representatives, and express the far-reaching negative impacts that ATC privatization would have on the world’s busiest, most complex, and safest air traffic system,” he continued.
EAA was among the groups who warned of the privatization threat, a coalition that grew to include more than 200 aviation associations, plus consumer advocates, mayors from throughout the country, and even some conservative groups. The government’s own nonpartisan review agencies also panned the ATC privatization concept, noting it would add nearly $100 billion to the federal deficit, slow modernization of the air traffic system, and threaten national security.
“This was, as we’ve said all along, a bad solution to a nonexistent problem,” Pelton said. “Now let us join together to do the real work on behalf of aviation. We seek congressional passage of a bill that will maintain equal access to skies and eliminates the threat of user fees, aviation event fees, and other burdens that inhibit the future of general aviation.”
“The voice of the entire general aviation community was heard today,” added Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International. “I want to thank our members for their commitment and passion to engage their elected officials. I also want to express our community’s gratitude to our representatives for listening. This is a great example of what can happen when people unite and speak with one voice. I offer my deepest appreciation to the entire GA community for its tireless work defending our industry.”
“This is what advocacy is all about,” added Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “AOPA and other groups identified the threat this bill posed for GA and with great support from AOPA members, we worked every angle on Capitol Hill, through the media, and with other organizations outside of aviation who would also be negatively impacted. The coalition and excellent strategy paid off and kept this bill from reaching the House floor.
“Now we can focus that energy on continuing to improve the excellent air traffic system we already have and in bringing other improvements to the FAA,” he continued. “Meanwhile, we will remain ever vigilant for future efforts that will be disruptive to general aviation because the general aviation we enjoy in this country is unique in the world and is worth protecting.”
“We are profoundly grateful for everyone who has made their voice heard on this critical issue, including the National Business Aviation Association‘s members and the entire general aviation community, as well as a chorus of opposition from a diverse, informed and united coalition,” echoed NBAA officials. “The many members of Congress who carefully considered this issue, listened to concerns from their constituents, and ultimately stood with the general aviation community should also be applauded.
“The general aviation community came together like never before, and clearly told Congress that handing over our nation’s ATC system to an airline-dominated board is a risk we simply cannot take – everyone should be proud of this significant effort,” NBAA officials continued.
“As we all know, long-term reauthorization of the FAA, and the continuing modernization of the nation’s aviation system, is a national priority, one we all share. We are profoundly grateful that Chairman Shuster has responded to the concerns that have been raised over his proposal, by a large and diverse group of organizations and individuals.
“We look forward to working with the chairman and other congressional transportation leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill, on a bipartisan basis, to advance a long-term FAA reauthorization package that serves all Americans, and ensures the U.S. has the world’s best air transportation system for decades to come. Now is the time to focus our full attention on a long-term FAA bill that continues advancing the modernization efforts that are already improving our ATC system.”