As Twin & Turbine readers are certainly aware, NBAA and its members have been hard at work this year as part of an historic coalition of voices opposing privatization of air traffic control (ATC) services in the United States. The recent passage of a funding extension for the FAA did not end this fight; to the contrary, we can expect backers of this controversial plan – backed by powerful airline interests – to continue pushing their agenda in Congress, and it is imperative that our shared aviation community remain steadfast in our opposition to them.
Privatization raises a host of troubling questions, most notably the very real possibility that once the ATC system is governed by what will essentially be an airline cartel, the private entity could assume authority for taxation, investment and access to the nation’s airports and airspace.
This scheme also raises concerns from a financial standpoint. Contrary to proponents’ claims that a privatized ATC will save costs and improve efficiency, a recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that privatizing ATC in the U.S. could increase the nation’s budget deficit by nearly $100 billion.
Despite these and other red flags, proponents for ATC privatization are pulling out all the stops to rally support for their cause. As part of their efforts, they and their third-party surrogates are carrying a pro-privatization message that vilifies business aviation in print, broadcast and online placements.
Fortunately, these efforts have been met by a large, diverse and growing coalition of more than 150 aviation organizations, over 100 business leaders who are also pilots, more than 100 U.S. mayors, consumer and agricultural groups, congressional leaders from both political parties, and a majority of American citizens – all with concerns or outright opposition to ATC privatization.
They have been joined by industry legends, with career-spanning expertise about the nation’s aviation system, have raised concerns. In a recently produced TV ad, Miracle on the Hudson pilot Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger asks: “Why in the world would we give the keys to the kingdom to the largest airlines? Because they definitely have their own agenda – to lower their costs.”
Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell said ATC privatization “would put the traveling public at unnecessary risk,” adding “it could even endanger our national security,” and concluding that ATC privatization “is a solution in search of a problem.”
Most recently, Lovell and Sully were joined by six legendary military heroes, former team commanders with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels aerial demonstration teams, in also expressing their fierce opposition to ATC privatization.
With the last-minute passage of an FAA funding extension, privatization supporters will now look to other opportunities later this year to get the bill to the House floor for a vote. Although we have a large, diverse and growing chorus of opposition to ATC privatization, we will need to continue to make our voices heard, and we have the tools to do so.
NBAA’s Contact Congress resource provides a means for using email and social media to alert lawmakers to the industry’s opposition to privatization. In addition, a toll-free action line – 1-833-GA-VOICE (1-833-428-6423) – connects constituents with elected representatives, along with a brief list of suggested talking points.
The general aviation community is also supporting a dedicated website – www.ATCNotforSale.com – where citizens can learn more about the threat from ATC privatization, and contact their elected officials. A Facebook page – Air Traffic Control – ATC Not for Sale – provides regular updates about the concerns over ATC privatization.
We are at a critical point, one that could determine the very future of our industry. We have fought hard, but we know we must do more. Now is the time for our industry’s resounding voice to be heard.