U.S. Senate Lawmakers Step Up Opposition to ATC Plan

 - February 1, 2016, 9:20 AM

U.S. Senate Appropriations leaders are stepping up their opposition to a proposal to separate the U.S. air traffic control organization, saying such a plan would curtail congressional oversight and break apart the FAA. Both Republican and Democrat leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee and transportation appropriations subcommittee voiced their opposition as the House is expected to roll out a comprehensive reauthorization proposal—including a measure for an independent ATC—this week.

The leaders last summer had included language in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2016 FAA funding bill, saying they “would therefore oppose legislation to put the FAA or parts of the FAA on funding autopilot.”

They followed with a January 27 letter to Senate Commerce Committee leaders saying, “The public would not be well served by exempting any part of the FAA from annual congressional oversight.” They noted that congressional oversight provides accountability and “ensures that the FAA maintains a system that works across the aviation industry, including general aviation and small and rural communities as well as commercial airlines and large metropolitan cities.”

They also noted that the U.S. has been a world leader in aviation with the largest, most complex system. “It does not make sense to break apart the FAA, an essential part of our success in aviation.” The lawmakers further expressed concern that efforts to modernize ATC, certify aviation products in a timely fashion and integrate unmanned systems in to the national airspace would be undermined if the FAA is fractured.

Their letter comes as battle lines continue to be drawn over the proposal with House Republicans, including some key General Aviation Caucus members, and many scheduled airlines backing the concept while House Democrats, aviation consumers and general aviation groups oppose it.

General aviation and other groups welcomed the letter. “It represents an important perspective from legislators who have, for decades, ensured funding for the nation's air transportation system, despite great volatility in both the U.S. and world economies,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.