June 10, 2016

At a June 9 policy discussion among aviation leaders in Washington, DC, NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown was among several aviation leaders who reiterated concern over proposals for creating a privatized ATC system, funded by new user fees.

Such proposals have been based on the idea of taking oversight of the nation’s ATC system from Congress, and handing it to a board of directors dominated by airline interests – a concept often promoted as part of the continuing debate in Congress over reauthorization of the FAA. Funding for the current authorization is set to expire on July 15.

The topic of FAA reauthorization and ATC privatization was much discussed during the policy panel in which Brown participated, which was hosted by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and moderated by its president and CEO, Tom Hendricks.

“The business aviation community’s focus has been on ATC modernization, investing in a Next Generation Air Traffic System, and making sure access to the aviation system is available to everyone,” Brown stated. “That said, NBAA is among a sizeable and diverse group of people and organizations that have raised legitimate concerns over ATC privatization.”

Drawing on his first-hand experience in managing America’s aviation system as the former associate administrator for Air Traffic Services for the FAA, Brown said, “When you look at other ATC systems around the world, including privatized systems, you quickly come to understand that we have a far different, more complex system than other countries do. It’s a system that equitably serves the greatest number and diversity of stakeholders, and we don’t want to jeopardize that.”

In addition to Brown, the panel discussion included Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President (AOPA) Mark Baker, Airports Council International-North America President and CEO Kevin Burke, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President and CEO Pete Bunce, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President and CEO Todd Hauptli, and Helicopter Association International (HAI) President Matt Zuccaro.

Zuccaro was among the speakers who echoed Brown’s comments about ATC privatization, noting that the matter is of particular concern to HAI’s member companies, which rely on rotorcraft to meet their business transportation needs, and typically fly at low altitudes.

“Today, I know that I can go to Congress and get a hearing on our members’ operational concerns,” Zuccaro said. “But, I can’t imagine having to go to a panel of airline companies, and asking them to focus on priorities for low-flying helicopters.”

The discussion among the aviation leaders was held the day after a number of organizations – including NBAA, AOPA, AAAE, GAMA, HAI and NATA – signed a letter to lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, noting the pending expiration date for the FAA funding extension, and calling for passage of an FAA reauthorization bill that enjoys the broad, bipartisan support reflected in the Senate reauthorization legislation. Read the June 8 industry letter to the House.