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Air Force Association Op-Ed Rips ATC Privatization

January 17, 2018 — One of EAA’s earliest points in opposition of any ATC privatization plan was that turning government assets over to a private entity controlled by the airlines could lead to conflicts of interest and possible breaches of national security. The Air Force Association now appears to agree.

Writing in Tuesday’s Federal Times, AFA’s senior director of government relations, Keith Zuegel, called the ATC privatization plan “a risk to flight safety.” Zuegel, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who earned a Silver Star in Operation Desert Storm, highlighted several areas where national security could be at risk with ATC privatization:

  • As the Department of Defense relies on the FAA for aspects of national security, it has indicated “serious concerns” regarding proposed changes.
  • The National Capital Region relies on the FAA’s air traffic system to search and identify air threats before summoning air defenses and U.S. Customs to intercept them. That priority would be diminished with airline control of the air traffic system.
  • Unlike other nations that have privatized air traffic systems, the U.S. proposal would eliminate all government oversight of ATC operations.

“(The Department of Defense) would have less input, while smaller aviation actors and general aviation would likely be treated with the same care the airlines have for their passengers’ baggage,” Zuegel wrote.

The outcry from general aviation users, government oversight agencies, and individual states and communities have so far slowed any full vote on the measure (H.R. 2997) in the House of Representatives. EAA is remaining vigilant against any maneuver that could unexpectedly bring it to the floor.

Keeping the ATC system open to full access, focused on security, and politically accountable is essential, according to Zuegel, who added, “Placing our national security in the hands of those who cannot manage our luggage is hardly comforting.”

You can reach your congressional representatives to voice opposition to any ATC privatization plan through the ATCNotForSale website or EAA’s Rally Congress page.

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