Washington, DC, March 2, 2017 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) welcomed a letter sent this week by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in support of her call, issued during her recent confirmation hearings, for a “national discussion” regarding modernization of the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system.
In their Feb. 27 letter, the lawmakers note that any decision regarding ATC modernization carries significant ramifications for millions of aviation stakeholders, from such diverse areas as general aviation pilots, manufacturers and support workers, to employees with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airlines, the military, commercial space operators, remote aircraft operators and others.
Among the factors impacting the continuing debate over ATC modernization, and ongoing development of the FAA’s “NextGen” air transportation network, has been the concept, long pushed by some airlines, for replacing congressional oversight of the nation’s ATC network with a private entity, governed by an airline-centric board, and funded by new user fees. The concept has long been opposed by NBAA and other organizations, as well as by federal and local elected officials, and most voters.
In reference to the issue, the senators’ letter recalls that during her confirmation hearing, Chao stated that “any decision on changes to air traffic control in the United States needed ‘to be a dialogue, a great discussion, a national discussion,’ and would require a ‘national consensus.’”
The senators’ letter agrees with the assessment, adding: “We appreciate your commitment to discussion and consensus-building on this important issue. We also agree that the process should involve all stakeholders in carefully evaluating the current ATC system, the costs and benefits of various proposals, and the impact on all who would be affected.
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen thanked the senators for their message to Chao, and noted that, while ATC modernization and privatization are often conflated into the same discussion, “we must not allow talk of privatization to become a debilitating distraction from the absolute necessity of continuing the progress we’ve made on aviation system modernization.
“We fully support an open and honest discussion about the most effective means to accomplish our shared goals of maintaining America’s world-leading position in aviation, and I welcome the commitment expressed by Sens. Moran and Klobouchar, and Secretary Chao, to continuing to build on a consensus-based modernization program that reflects that goal,” Bolen concluded.