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Keeping a Close Eye on ATC Privatization

EAA opposing any move toward GA user fees

By EAA Staff

July 20, 2015 - EAA is closely monitoring the development of a proposal in Congress to transfer FAA air traffic control (ATC) functions to a private, nonprofit corporation.

Under federal ownership, the air traffic system has long guaranteed equal access for all users with GA’s share of costs largely funded through the collection of fuel excise taxes. The move to privatize ATC could result in the potential of user fees for general aviation in the future, a measure that EAA continues to vigorously oppose.

Privatization also raises the specter of a system that prioritizes certain air traffic over others, rather than the current policy of equal access to the national airspace system.

While talk of ATC privatization has been ongoing in Congress for months, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, formally announced his intention to introduce a proposal during a recent speech at the Aero Club of Washington. He detailed a plan that would create a federally chartered corporation to administer air traffic services overseen by a board of directors made up of system user representatives.

It is expected that representatives of the airline industry would heavily populate that board. The corporation would be funded by revenue collected from users of the system, which GA pilots currently contribute in the form of a fuel tax. Shuster plans to include the proposal in the forthcoming FAA reauthorization bill.

“Any privatization effort must not result in a pay-to-play scheme for general aviation,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “Though we certainly understand the desire to find ways to make the air traffic system more efficient and cost-effective, the current fuel tax system of revenue generation works and is efficiently and fairly collected.”

It is EAA’s contention that, among other consequences, per-use fees for air traffic services effectively penalize the prudent practice of using ATC services, such as filing for IFR in marginal conditions or simply receiving VFR advisories. Also of concern is whether a privatized ATC system could or would supply the necessary resources to make events like AirVenture, Sun ’n Fun, and others possible.

EAA will be advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of its members and the entire general aviation community on this important issue. The simple and fair system of funding through fuel taxes and the “first come, first served” airspace access general aviation has enjoyed throughout its history in the United States cannot be sacrificed in the quest for efficiency.

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