Aug. 9, 2017


With Congress now in its annual August recess through Labor Day, the general aviation (GA) community needs to redouble its grassroots efforts to stop H.R. 2997, under which congressional oversight of the nation’s aviation system would be replaced by an entity governed by a private group unaccountable to Congress.

That was the unanimous sentiment shared by GA leaders and activists across the country, during a conference call designed to help regional groups and other advocates in the industry continue mobilizing their members, colleagues, friends, families and others in opposition to the bill.

Also joining the call was Rep. Todd Rokita (R-4-IN), who talked specifically about the importance of reaching Congressional lawmakers while they are in their home districts this month.

“In the month of August, while both the Senate and the House are back in their respective districts, it is an amazing opportunity for us as a community to contact them and work with them directly,” Rokita said. “We have to take this opportunity. We are in the fight of our lives here, in terms of access to airspace in the future.

“Personally contact your legislators, have your groups’ members contact your legislators,” he added. “You can find us [Congressional lawmakers] at a Rotary Club meeting, you can find us holding town halls, you can find us out and about in our districts and in our states – search us out at those venues.

“This is not privatization; this is a corporate takeover,” Rokita said of the bill. “We have tens of thousands of constituents who will be negatively affected by this – members of Congress need to hear from them.”

Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), noted that H.R. 2997 was introduced in June by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-9-PA). Baker added that Shuster and others are working to bring the bill to a vote when Congress returns to Washington in September, “which means the GA community can’t let its guard down. This is a battle that has just begun, not ended,” he said.

The GA leaders noted that more than 130 GA groups across the country have signed onto a letter against the bill (PDF). Also, they said, members of Congress from both parties, mayors from across the country, business leaders, consumer groups, think tanks on the political left and right and a majority of American citizens have opposed ATC privatization.

Jack Pelton, board chairman and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), addressed some of the arguments being made by advocates of so-called privatization, including those alleging a lack of technological investment in ATC modernization. Such arguments, Pelton said, are “simply untrue,” noting for example that, despite claims to the contrary, “GPS technology has been in place for 20 years, and GA led the way in implementing that technology.”

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen added: “We’ve got the largest, the safest, the most efficient and the most diverse transportation system in the world – why would we spend $20 billion to give it to a cartel of big airlines? Make no mistake about it, our industry is under attack, and the proposal the airlines are pushing would destroy our industry.”

The GA leaders urged stakeholders to visit to find a host of information resources on the issue, a tool for contacting Congress through email and social media, a toll-free number (1-833-GA-VOICE) to reach elected officials, an anti-privatization video featuring hero-pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and much more.

The associations that hosted the call were AOPA, EAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association, and NBAA, with the leader of each group representing the respective organization.