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Senate Leaders Pan ATC Privatization Idea
January 29, 2016 – A bipartisan group of leaders from the Senate Appropriations Committee have sent a strongly worded letter to their colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee, criticizing the idea of removing air traffic control services from FAA control and privatizing them under an independent company run by a stakeholder board that would likely be dominated by airlines and commercial drone interests.
According to media reports including POLITICO, the letter came from Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and ranking member Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), with signatures from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island). The bipartisan nature of the letter, from the leadership of the committee that oversees transportation funding, showed a united concern over removing congressional oversight of ATC operations and removing them from FAA authority.
“These proposals have two fundamental problems: they break apart the FAA, and they diminish the ability of Congress to oversee the aviation system,” the letter stated. “The annual appropriations process provides the oversight of agency resources that is necessary to ensure accountability for program performance and a sustained focus on aviation safety.”
The Senate letter comes only three days after two House members joined a new consumer group, Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization (AAATP), in announcing opposition to a privatization plan that is expected to be announced in early February as part of a FAA authorization bill in the House of Representatives.
EAA and more than a dozen general aviation groups expressed their concerns earlier this month in a letter to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The group stated “real and longstanding concerns” with the concept of ATC privatization and urged that ample time and opportunity be allowed to review and provide input on any proposals to overhaul the air traffic system.
EAA Chairman/CEO Jack Pelton also addresses this issue in the February 2016 issue of EAA Sport Aviation, which was sent to members this week.