June 15, 2017

Ed Bolen 2017 RTCA convention

During a major industry forum, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen reiterated the association’s serious concerns with proposals that would essentially hand over governance of the nation’s ATC system to a private board, noting that the system is a public asset that has always served a variety of stakeholders, and should continue to do so.

During a panel discussion on June 14 at RTCA’s 2017 Global Aviation Symposium in Washington, DC, Bolen said, “We must keep in mind that it’s a broad aviation system, not just an airline system. We want to ensure that public airspace, which belongs to the public, serves the public interest.”

Bolen noted that the United States has the safest, largest and most diverse aviation system in the world. The key to improving the U.S. ATC system, Bolen emphasized, is identifying the end goal. “We are using a lot of words interchangeably,” he said. “Reform, commercialization, modernization, privatization. We have to figure out what issue we are trying to solve, and how we solve it,” he said.

Bolen said that removing congressional oversight for aviation policymaking could pave the way for a scenario in which the major carriers could have sweeping authority to make self-serving policy decisions, including the imposition of greater taxes, fees and impediments on general aviation.

He went on to cite estimates in the president’s budget, which show his proposal to remove congressional oversight for the system and place it under the authority of a new, private entity, could cost $26 billion to $46 billion, and take 10 years to accomplish, which could undermine America’s status as a world leader in aviation. Bolen added that many of the countries that have pursued such plans “are tiny and have experienced long delays in implementation.”

Bolen also noted that NBAA and the broader general aviation community have long advocated for developing targeted solutions that will build upon progress already achieved under the FAA’s NextGen air traffic management program. Bolen said the U.S. needs solutions that help Americans “fly more affordably, predictably and safely.”

In conclusion, Bolen said all aviation stakeholders should be given an opportunity to weigh in on proposed ATC system changes that could pose a threat to everyday Americans who rely on general aviation.

Read NBAA’s response (PDF) to the Trump administration’s calls for ATC privatization.