The Dream of a Privatized Air Traffic Control System Dies Next Week

By Ferrechio, Susan | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, April 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Dream of a Privatized Air Traffic Control System Dies Next Week


Ferrechio, Susan, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


The effort to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system will officially die in the House next week when lawmakers vote on a long-term bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration.

Endorsements from President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan were not enough to usher the air traffic control privatization plan through the House, and now the plan will end up on a shelf until at least 2023.

The FAA legislation, which reauthorizes the administration’s programs and spending authority for the next five years, is poised to pass next week without a provision that would have put air traffic control services under the control of a private, nonprofit board.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., authored the privatization provision and remains a staunch advocate. But he removed it from the FAA bill when it became clear significant Republican opposition would prevent it from passing without the support of Democrats, who are even more adamantly against privatization and would not have been much help providing votes.

“We built strong support for this critical reform over the last two congresses, and we had a golden opportunity to move beyond the status quo and accomplish positive, transformational change with this bill,” said Shuster, who is retiring from Congress.

Proponents said privatization would speed up air traffic control modernization and a long-planned conversion from radar to a satellite-based GPS system.

President Trump said the proposal would give the system access to capital markets and investors that would provide additional funding needed for upgrades.

“If we adopt these changes, Americans can look forward to cheaper, faster, and safer travel,” Trump said in June. “A future where 20 percent of a ticket price doesn’t go to the government, and where you don’t have to sit on a tarmac or circle for hours and hours over an airport, which is very dangerous also, before you land.”

The proposal had the backing of major airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

But lawmakers from rural districts, where general aviation is critical, feared they would be overburdened by new user fees and predicted having little say on an appointed board they believed would be dominated by commercial airlines.

“Establishing a private ATC board outside the purview of Congress with the unilateral power to collect fees and distribute service would threaten safety, accessibility, affordability and pilot generation which is already in a critical state,” five Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to House GOP leaders urging them to strip out the privatization language. …

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