May 16, 2016

During an industry panel on the future of America’s ATC system held last week in Washington, DC, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen noted that in the course of the ongoing debate over reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a number and variety of voices continue raising serious concerns over proposals for privatization of America’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) system.

Speaking as a panelist at a forum hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, Bolen said that many questions raised regarding ATC privatization have remained largely unanswered – a reality that should concern all Americans, given the central role of aviation, including general aviation, to citizens, companies and communities across the county.

“The U.S. air transportation system is so important to our nation’s economy and greater transportation system,” said Bolen. “And we have the largest, safest and most diverse airspace in the world.”

Bolen argued that the move to privatization would create a corporate ATC structure that, by design, would hand control of the system over to an airline-centric board of directors, leaving other stakeholders disenfranchised. Not only would such a governance structure put general aviation at risk, it also would threaten the economies of rural communities, for which general aviation provides one of the few viable transportation options.

“Over the course of the past year, there have been concerns raised by general aviation groups, consumer groups, labor groups, conservative groups and liberal groups,” noted Bolen. “So how do we keep a system that serves the public interest?”

Fellow panelist National Air Transportation Association President and CEO Thomas L. Hendricks agreed, saying, “We don’t want the U.S. to have a system where airports are only in the [larger] cities. Business goes to where the runways are. Let’s be thoughtful.”

Bolen again cited the support from NBAA and other organizations for an FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.636), which recently passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, and does not include proposals for ATC privatization. Read: NBAA Hails Passage of Senate FAA Reauthorization Measure.

“Five years ago, stakeholders came together to revamp what we’re all trying to accomplish through the NextGen program, and we are making progress, which is encouraging,” Bolen said. He added that despite some policy differences, all industry stakeholders agree on the need to support the completion of a Next Generation (or “NextGen”), satellite-based ATC system, and thereby modernizing the infrastructure, so that the U.S. can continue to have the safest airspace in the world.

Also last week, Dick Doubrava, NBAA vice president of government affairs, expressed the same sentiments during a FAA reauthorization panel discussion held during the American Association of Airport Executives annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston, TX.

Industry professionals may use NBAA’s Contact Congress resource to communicate with federal legislators about FAA reauthorization. Messages may be sent via email or through social media. Learn more about Contact Congress.

Read NBAA’s FAA Reauthorization Resources.