Long-time readers may recall my earlier screeds about the threat of privatizing the nation’s air traffic control system. The most serious attempt to privatize ATC is found in legislation pending before the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2997, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, or simply the 21st Century AIRR Act. In addition to privatizing the U.S. ATC system, the bill funds FAA programs for a multiyear period.
Last September, Congress punted on this bill and instead passed a stopgap measure to keep the agency in operation through March 31, 2018. That new deadline is fast approaching, and Congress once again will have to act to keep the FAA in operation past that date. It’s all but assured that proponents of ATC privatization will use the upcoming deadline as an opportunity to push this proposal once again. And its chief supporter, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) is retiring this year; he’ll pull out all the stops, wanting to go out with a big win. Unless we once again raise a stink about how bad an idea this is, they could get away with it.
Something ATC privatization supporters are counting on is a fatigued opposition. Keeping track of the ins and outs of this and other federal legislation in which we all have an interest is a constant, sometimes-confusing struggle, and it gets old after a while. If we tire and let down our guard, throw up our hands and walk away, we’ll make it easier for ATC privatization supporters to bring their bill to a vote.
Thanks to the controversial nature of this proposal and the lack of consensus on other features of the House bill, that hasn’t happened yet. But it could, at almost any time before March 31. Even then, another postponement may be the result, kicking the can even further down the road. Accordingly, we need to be on guard against this bill moving quickly toward passage.
Once more, we ask you to contact your federal elected officials in the House and Senate to express opposition to ATC privatization. Web pages set up by NBAA, AOPA and EAA make this easy, or you can simply call 202-224-3121 and ask for your representatives by name. We’re all suffering from fatigue on this issue, but we need to step up once more. Let’s stick the fork in it this time, once and for all.