June 27, 2016

On June 23, at a town hall meeting attended by more than 50 people in Racine, WI, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called upon those in the general aviation community to make their voices heard in opposition to proposals under consideration in Washington, DC, for creating a privatized ATC system, funded with user fees.

Such proposals have been promoted as part of the debate underway in Washington for reauthorizing the FAA. The agency’s current authorization is set to expire on July 15.

One such privatization proposal is contained within a bill (H.R. 4441) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the legislation, the newly created ATC system would be overseen by a board of directors largely represented by airline interests, and funded by new user fees.

The concept has caused alarm within the general aviation community, which consists mostly of flights conducted by smaller aircraft for recreational and business purposes, and in support of humanitarian initiatives and important civil services.

“General aviation is an essential industry for Wisconsin and every state across America,” Bolen reminded the crowd, which included a representative from the office of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “Just from an economic standpoint, we’re talking about more than $200 billion in economic activity, and from a jobs perspective it’s more than 1.1 million jobs.

“Air traffic control is and will always be a monopoly,” Bolen added. “Our concern is that, if you let the airlines run the air traffic control system, they’ll do so to their benefit, and everyone else’s detriment.”

Hosted by the by Matt Dean, president of the Wisconsin Business Aviation Association (WBAA), and held at the Experimental Aircraft Association Hangar (EAA) at Batten International Airport, the town hall also featured remarks from EAA CEO and Board Chairman Jack Pelton, who echoed Bolen’s perspective on the issue.

“Some of our airports in Wisconsin, which are so critically important to the vitality of the communities they are in, would be completely underfunded [under a privatized ATC system], because the focus would be on the major airlines, and whatever infrastructure they need to support their activities,” said Pelton.

EAA’s members include those located across Wisconsin, and Oshkosh is home to EAA’s annual Airventure event, one of the largest aviation events in the United States. NBAA’s member companies include those involved with the WBAA.

Bolen and Pelton encouraged people across the general aviation community to make their voices heard against ATC privatization funded by user fees with their representatives in Congress; one way to do so is by using the NBAA’s Contact Congress online advocacy tool.

“Our public airspace is supposed to serve the public good,” concluded Bolen. “It belongs to the public, and we need to ensure that remains the case.”