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EAA Opposition to ATC Privatization Bill Moves to Full House

Move would create monopoly without oversight or budget savings

February 12, 2016 – EAA will continue its fight after the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday night narrowly approved HR 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016, sending it to the full House. As EAA has maintained since the notion of ATC privatization first emerged last summer, the organization is committed to fighting this legislation that would be ominous for grassroots aviation and a power grab by the nation’s airlines.

EAA members will soon be asked to raise their voices to their elected representatives when Congress returns on Feb. 22 from a weeklong recess. Although the possibility of ATC privatization legislation had been anticipated for several months, it is only possible to directly react when specific legislation is introduced. That occurred last week. The contents of the bill were withheld by its sponsor, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), until just before the hearing and committee markup sessions that occurred this week. That left little opportunity for anyone to review or comment on the bill’s contents.

“As one congressman said this week, this would be the biggest divestment of taxpayer property to private interests in world history, so why have the bill’s authors been so secretive about its contents prior to introduction and now so determined to hurriedly ramrod it through Congress?” asked EAA CEO/chairman Jack Pelton. “ATC privatization will put the big squeeze on general aviation in a way that threatens the individual freedom of flight and hands control of America’s airspace to commercial and airline interests.”

As EAA wrote in a statement for the record to a House hearing earlier this week, the opposition is based on several factors:

  • A privatized ATC system would take services away from federal oversight and place them in the hands of a board controlled by those with the greatest financial resources;
  • Threats to access and services for general aviation and rural airports without commercial service;
  • An ATC board weighted toward airlines and commercial aviation, creating conflicts of interest;
  • Loss of FAA control over safety oversight, while creating a large parallel bureaucracy;
  • Creation of a congressionally mandated monopoly managed by private interests;
  • Unlimited civil and tort liability for a new ATC corporation, which could financially cripple such a system.

“While some amendments were introduced to the bill in an attempt to buy off general aviation, the notion of ATC privatization is a non-starter on all levels,” Pelton said. “Such a shift will not save the government any money or reduce any bureaucracy. We have been tirelessly letting lawmakers know this in the halls of Congress. Shortly, we will be calling upon EAA members to let their lawmakers know that we see through this charade.”

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