The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President and CEO Mark Baker returned to Capitol Hill to express AOPA’s support for modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system without privatizing it.
He also encouraged the FAA to offer another round of rebates for GA pilots to equip for ADS-B Out before the 2020 mandate.
Baker told members of the Senate Aviation and Space subcommittee on Sept. 24, 2019, and the House Subcommittee on Aviation on Sept. 26 that private control of an air traffic management system that handles more than 44,000 flights a day would do nothing to reduce delays, lower ticket prices, or speed up modernization. He said it also could have devastating consequences to small and rural airports.
“As you know, the past two years were spent dealing with a proposal calling for the privatization of our ATC system,” Baker said during a hearing held to consider air traffic control improvements. “I don’t believe anyone wants to revisit the issue that has and will continue to divide us. We have seen where ATC privatization hasn’t worked well for general aviation in other countries and we don’t want to go down that path.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, has said he wants to “reset” the conversation on ATC reform and not “rehash old fights.”
“I want to make clear from the start that, while I’m sure the air traffic control reform efforts of previous Congresses are on the minds of all of our witnesses today, that’s not what this hearing is about,” Cruz said in his opening remarks. “While those efforts and the members who engaged in them — including the ranking member of this subcommittee — showed bold leadership in challenging the status quo, we are not here today to rehash old fights. The purpose of this hearing is to examine the current landscape, to discuss what works and what doesn’t, and what you, the stakeholders, like and don’t like, and to open a new avenue for dialogue.”
Baker told the subcommittee that AOPA shares a desire to improve efficiency and reduce cost. He added that the association and general aviation pilots “are ready and willing to work with all industry stakeholders and Congress to advance the consensus needed to improve our current system.”
Baker noted that the primary challenges that remain for the next generation of air traffic control include the need for GA aircraft owners to equip their airplanes with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) technology, controller training on new systems and procedures, and continued flight path routing procedure development (commonly referred to as Performance Based Navigation).
In response to a question from Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) on the ADS-B Out 2020 mandate, Baker urged the subcommittee to encourage the FAA to provide another round of rebates that would further spur the GA equipage rate.
AOPA also supports the Senate’s Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019 (S.762), bipartisan legislation that would insulate the FAA from any negative impacts of future government shutdowns. A companion bill (H.R.1108) was introduced in the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
Baker also took the opportunity to remind senators that aviation remains a workforce engine that offers vast potential to create jobs for the next generation of pilots, controllers, and technicians. He called on lawmakers to fully fund the aviation workforce development programs created in the 2018 FAA reauthorization act.
“As the committee is aware, in order to meet bold challenges, we need bold initiatives. Recognizing this, I am hopeful the committee will work with Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and others to establish a National Center for the Advancement of Aviation,” Baker said. “We strongly believe standing up such a center will facilitate cooperation, collaboration, and coordination across all sectors of aviation — civil, commercial, and military — and which is so desperately needed.”
Also testifying before the committee were representatives from Airlines for America, the Air Line Pilots Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and National Business Aviation Association.