Ag Groups Air Fears About Rural Fallout From ATC Reform

 - April 6, 2017, 11:25 AM

A number of organizations representing agricultural and rural interests in the U.S. are appealing to lawmakers to consider the ramifications of potential air traffic control reform on rural areas. Ten organizations aired their concerns in a letter spearheaded by the Alliance for Aviation Across America and sent to lawmakers as the Senate aviation subcommittee was set to hold a hearing today on issues confronting rural communities and general aviation.

Noting the anticipated proposal to create an independent organization to run the nation’s air traffic control, the organizations said they are concerned that “rural communities, agriculture and small businesses stand to lose the most under a privatized system, where there would be no congressional oversight to ensure that all stakeholders and communities have access to air transportation.”

Commercial service is available at only 509 of the more than 5,000 airports across the U.S., the letter states. “That means that for the majority of our communities around the country, small airports and general aviation are a literal lifeline to local communities, industries and businesses.”

Under a “privatized” system, the groups fear, “a private board dominated by the largest commercial operators would undoubtedly direct resources and investments to the largest hub airports and urban areas where these investments would be most likely to benefit their bottom line.” They also worry about the potential for new fees and taxes and how such proposals would affect the Airport Improvement Program.

The Agriculture Retailers Association, Crop Life America, League of Rural Voters, National Agricultural Aviation Association, National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Farmers Union, National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, National Women in Agriculture Association and USA Rice Federation joined the Alliance in signing the letter.