General aviation groups are orchestrating a large lobbying campaign against U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster’s (R-Pa.) independent air traffic control organization as the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee prepares to debate and consider the plan this week. The committee has scheduled a hearing tomorrow on the comprehensive FAA reauthorization package, H.R.4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act (the AIRR Act), which includes a proposal to create a user-funded, non-for-profit corporation to run the U.S. ATC system. Committee consideration of the bill could come as early as February 11.
In his unveiling of the bill, Shuster acknowledged the differing opinions surrounding the independent ATC plan and promised that the various sides would have an opportunity to discuss their views during the hearing. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, who has strong concerns about the proposal, is among those scheduled to testify, as are ATC privatization proponents Airlines for America president and CEO Nicholas Calio, National Air Traffic Controllers Association president Paul Rinaldi and the Reason Foundation’s Robert Poole.
While the committee begins debate over the bill, both NBAA and NATA have rallied their members to voice their concerns. In a February 8 letter to NBAA members, Bolen wrote, “This proposal’s plan to privatize ATC is such a pronounced threat for the future ability of business aviation to fly when and where it needs to that NBAA is compelled to oppose the legislation. I am asking you to write your members of Congress and let them know that you also oppose H.R.4441.”
NATA, meanwhile, launched a grassroots campaign, including a webpage detailing the issues and providing information for its members to contact Congress. “The hour has rarely been graver for general aviation and we are calling on all aviation businesses to join us,” said NATA president and CEO Tom Hendricks. “We want make it clear that industry insiders don’t get to decide the future of our nation’s air traffic control system.”