WSJ Editorial Takes Aim at ATC Privatization Opponents

 - February 16, 2018, 11:06 AM

While Congress has remained quiet on the ultimate fate of comprehensive FAA legislation, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to push the centerpiece of its bill—air traffic control privatization—including promoting a Wall Street Journal editorial that calls the concept of a separate ATC organization a good idea.

This morning, the committee sent an email distributing the February 14 WSJ editorial that takes aim at the “lobbyists for the paupers known as the corporate jet lobby.” The editorial called NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen a ringleader running a “misinformation campaign,” and also cited the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in the effort.

The piece disputes arguments of ATC privatization opponents that the airlines would ultimately end up running the system, saying the proposal would permit only limited airline seats on the board that would run an independent ATC system, and other groups would have seats. It also rehashes arguments of proponents that general aviation is exempt from user fees and dismissed as a “canard” concerns about small community access. “If business jets try to tank the bill no matter the details, then Republicans ought to subject them to fees, same as commercial flights,” the WSJ suggests, arguments long made by the airline community that has tried to shift its cost burdens to other users of the system.

Bolen responded that the editorial is inaccurate and fails to recognize the much broader opposition to the proposal—including 200 general aviation groups, along with mayors of every state and business leaders.

“In attacking NBAA, the editorial recycles inaccurate airline talking points that have proven to be false and obscures the fact that airlines themselves are responsible for most flight delays,” Bolen said. “Instead of engaging in a productive discussion on our ATC system, the airlines and their allies continue to spread false information and disparage general aviation.”

Bolen added that the editorial provides further need to contact Capitol Hill to maintain opposition to the plan.

As for the editorial’s arguments, Bolen noted point-by-point rebuttal of the editorial posted on the "ATC Not For Sale" website. The website disagreed with the WSJ contention about an ATC board, noting that airline interests would ultimately have access to eight of 13 board seats under the proposal. It also noted that the WSJ editorial had maintained that Airport Improvement Programs (AIP) funds would continue to protect small airports, but countered that AIP funds would be depleted under the ATC proposal.

Also, the ATC privatization opponents disputed the WSJ contention that private expertise could help make the system more efficient. The ATC Not For Sale rebuttal, instead, maintained that airline scheduling practices, not ATC systems, are the cause of airline delays.