Battle lines drawn in ATC privatization fight

 - August 11, 2008, 9:46 AM

Although Congress is on its annual summer vacation, the battle over privatization of ATC continued at press time. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said in a telephone press conference on August 13 that they will fight a proposal in the pending FAA reauthorization bill that would allow privatization of 69 general aviation control towers now staffed by FAA controllers.

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), 11 of the towers are listed by the FAA as among the 50 busiest, and they include such business aviation hotbeds as Van Nuys (VNY) and Long Beach (LGB), both in California; Denver Centennial (APA); Chicago Palwaukee (PWK); and Morristown Municipal (MMU) in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, at a joint press conference in Washington, the Air Transport Association (ATA), the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Airports Council International-North America warned that failure to pass the proposed FAA reauthorization bill could hold up nearly $60 billion in FAA funding, jeopardizing billions of dollars in airport-improvement projects. ATA president Jim May said “a single union is pressuring Congress to defeat the bill,” which he called “a must-pass piece of legislation.” Spencer Dickerson, senior executive v-p of AAAE and executive director of the AAAE-affiliated U.S. Contract Tower Association, pointed out that Tracons, en route centers and IFR towers–which make up 94 percent of the FAA controller workforce–would be protected from being privatized or outsourced for the four-year duration of the bill. Congress is expected to take up the bill when it reconvenes this month.