Shuster Signals End to ATC Privatization Battle

 - February 27, 2018, 10:44 PM

In a terse press release issued on February 27, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) appeared to drop his once-strong push for privatization of the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system. He admitted in the statement that the proposed reform of ATC in H.R.2997 “did not reach the obvious level of support needed to pass Congress,” and he will now work with his colleagues on a reauthorization bill “to provide long-term stability for the FAA.”

“We built strong support for this critical reform over the last two congresses, and we had a golden opportunity to move beyond the status quo and accomplish positive, transformational change with this bill,” Shuster said. “Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation—from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike—some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending.”

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen sent a message to members on February 27: “From the statement, it appears that as a result of the outstanding work of NBAA's board, Associate Member Advisory Committee, Leadership Council, membership and staff—as well as a chorus of opposition from a diverse, informed and united coalition—the airlines' effort with regard to ATC privatization will not go forward as part of the FAA reauthorization process.

“We are profoundly grateful for everyone who has made their voice heard on this critical issue. Now, it is time to focus our full attention on a long-term FAA bill that ensures the U.S. has the world's best air transportation system for decades to come," Bolen concluded.

The Helicopter Association International (HAI) and other aviation organizations applauded the move and indicated support for the plan for a reauthorization bill that would assure longer-term funding for the FAA. “HAI stands committed to working with Congress to modernize the FAA to maintain its world-class level of service and safety,” the association said.

“The voice of the entire general aviation community was heard today,” said HAI president and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “I want to thank our members for their commitment and passion to engage their elected officials. I also want to express our community’s gratitude to our representatives for listening. This is a great example of what can happen when people unite and speak with one voice.”

National Air Transportation Association president Martin Hiller said, “This win for the general aviation community shows what can be achieved when we all pull together toward a common goal, ensuring our airspace system remains for the benefit of all users. NATA also thanks those that collaborated with us in a coordinated industry effort, including NBAA, AOPA, EAA, HAI, and GAMA.”

“In dropping the controversial air traffic control proposal,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association president and CEO Mark Baker, “there’s now a chance to do something that all segments of aviation have been asking for—a long-term [FAA] reauthorization bill. This is what advocacy is all about. AOPA and other groups identified the threat this bill posed for GA and with great support from AOPA members, we worked every angle on Capitol Hill, through the media, and with other organizations outside of aviation who would also be negatively impacted. The coalition and excellent strategy paid off and kept this bill from reaching the House floor.”

“This is a tribute to all of you in general aviation who took the time to make yourself heard,” said Experimental Aircraft Association CEO and chairman Jack Pelton. “Thanks to the unified fight by the GA community, this bill was not going to pass with ATC privatization as part of it. We can now move ahead with what we have maintained all along—modernization, not privatization. We can fund the FAA long-term and let the agency continue with its already progressing modernization efforts.

“I want to thank every one of the grassroots aviators who took time to call, write, and visit their congressional representatives, and express the far-reaching negative impacts that ATC privatization would have on the world’s busiest, most complex, and safest air traffic system.”