Long-time readers will recall my several scribblings in opposition to proposals to privatize the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system, and my encouragement to those same readers to communicate their views to their federal elected officials. I’m happy to report our opposition to this solution in search of a problem has been successful: On February 27, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), the proposal’s architect and chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, announced he would remove it from pending FAA legislation.
This is a big deal, and a big win for general aviation. If enacted, the Shuster proposal would have turned over the ATC system—for free—to a yet-to-be-formed organization mostly comprised of airline companies with few constraints on their actions. In his statement, Shuster bemoaned the lack of support from his “own colleagues” and said the proposal “did not reach the obvious level of support needed to pass Congress.” He added that he would work with his Senate counterpart, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), to move forward with pending legislation to reauthorize the FAA.
His announcement means he will not use his position as chairman of the relevant committee to make ATC privatization a requirement in the law establishing priorities and funding for the FAA, which expired last September. Since Shuster is retiring at the end of the year and few others in Congress share his interest in ATC privatization, the proposal is effectively a non-starter for the immediate future.
The GA community breathed sighs of relief. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA): “We are profoundly grateful for everyone who has made their voice heard on this critical issue, including NBAA’s members and the entire general aviation community, as well as a chorus of opposition from a diverse, informed and united coalition.”
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.”
The Experimental Aircraft Association: “This is a tribute to all of you in general aviation who took the time to make yourself heard,” said EAA CEO and Chairman of the Board 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.”
This was a big win for GA. But the flawed ideas behind ATC privatization aren’t going away. They’ll be back. I hope you will, too.