May 15, 2017
During a recent visit to Washington, DC, business aviation leaders from Waco, TX and other central Texas communities met with their elected representatives on a variety of issues, including the potential harm that ATC privatization could inflict on the region’s aviation and aerospace industries.
Earlier this month, approximately 40 Waco government officials and business leaders, as well as delegates from McGregor and Bryan-College Station, met with Texas congressional leaders, including Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28). The meetings were organized by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17).
The delegation also met with other Capitol Hill leaders, including Rep. Bill Shuster (R-9-PA), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) and a leading advocate for ATC privatization.
“Chairman Shuster briefed the chamber on ATC reform, and the group made it known they were opposed to privatization,” said Steve Hadley, NBAA’s Southwestern regional representative. “Their belief is that congressional oversight is necessary to ensure that the interests of the entire public, including the citizens, companies and communities that rely on general aviation, is represented when it comes to aviation policymaking.”
In a subsequent discussion with Shuster’s staff, Greater Waco Aviation Alliance Chairman Felix Chiota pointed to a Delta Air Lines study that found European airports operating under privatized ATC systems can safely handle just three quarters of the traffic as American airports. “[Proponents] say privatization is working in Canada and Europe, yet we’re trying to model ourselves on countries that frequently look to us for guidance,” he added.
Waco is home to more than 30 aviation and aerospace businesses, supporting 3,900 direct and indirect jobs, with a combined payroll of $143 million and a total annual economic impact estimated at $518 million by the Texas transportation department. Jessica Attas, public policy director for the Greater Waco Chamber, noted those jobs could be threatened should a private entity restrict airport access.
“That may be an unintended consequence, but it’s a real risk nonetheless,” said Attas. “Privatization represents a philosophical shift in the understanding of transportation infrastructure to facilitate commerce, which is one of the very few constitutionally defined duties of the federal government. Even proponents of limited government recognize that oversight of this vital national asset is too important role responsibility to relinquish or outsource.”
Despite their differences on privatization, Attas praised Shuster for his work on other transportation initiatives vital to central Texas, including the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act.