As the clock ticks down towards the final days of 2015, it’s natural for us to reflect upon the policy challenges that confronted our aviation community over the past year, and the efforts undertaken by NBAA and the industry to respond to those challenges.
I believe we can be cautiously optimistic when it comes to our policy concerns, but we also have equal reason to believe that work remains to be done in several areas, and that we must remain vigilant and ready to mobilize in both the national and local legislative arenas.
For example, as readers of Twin & Turbine are aware, the freedom of access and movement that business aviation relies upon is at risk from recent proposals for creating a privatized air traffic control (ATC) system funded by user fees, as part of the Congressional debate over reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) taking place in Washington, DC.
Should legislation to privatize ATC come to fruition as part of the next FAA reauthorization bill, Congressional oversight of our nation’s airports and airspace could be replaced with a “board”, or similar other entity consisting of unelected individuals.
We have already seen how similarly privatized systems have negatively impacted general aviation in several foreign countries, as these entities tend to favor their own collective interests. Privatized systems also receive funding through user fees, which in turn require a new bureaucracy of billing agents, collectors and auditors that impose a huge administrative burden on those required to pay the fees.
As with any threat to business aviation, NBAA has responded forcefully. I have testified repeatedly before Congress to outline the association’s concerns, and NBAA’s call to action on the issue prompted individuals and business aviation groups to send thousands of e-mails and letters to Capitol Hill.
The ATC-privatization threat isn’t the only concern we’ve had to stay focused on; we also recently confronted the possibility of yet another shutdown of the federal government. Avoiding a shutdown is important for business aviation because our industry is more regulated than most, so disruptions to government services have a disproportionately negative impact on us.
You remember what happened during the shutdown of 2013: many vital FAA services were suspended, greatly harming the aviation community. NBAA and its members were very active in calling on leaders in all corners of government to end the shutdown, and after 17 days, Congress and the President concluded the shutdown, restoring government services.
Fortunately, the situation has not been as pronounced this time around. Congress narrowly avoided a shutdown after Sept. 30 through passage of a resolution to extend funding for these services, preserving them through December 11.
As with the issue of FAA reauthorization, it is likely when we reach the December deadline on the extension, this issue will soon return to the forefront, and the business aviation community may again need to mobilize. NBAA will continue this work, and I’m confident we will be able to count on the people in business aviation to support these efforts.