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General Aviation Rallies Against ATC Privatization

By Megan Esau

July 24, 2017 - Hundreds of EAA members united against ATC privatization at a town-hall style rally led by EAA CEO and chairman Jack J. Pelton Monday morning.

Jack was joined by AOPA CEO Mark Baker, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) CEO Pete Bunce, and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) CEO Ed Bolen to review the pitfalls of the House 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2997), driving home that general aviation opposes ATC privatization.

H.R. 2997 would remove ATC oversight from the FAA and transfer it to a private, nonprofit entity governed by a board of directors composed largely of airline special interests, creating an unprecedented monopoly over a public safety service, and departing from traditional, free-market values.

“The administration is hell-bent on making it happen, and we have to be as equally unified to make sure that we all encourage our elected officials to vote ‘no,’” Jack said.

The general aviation leaders emphasized that although user fees for ATC services are not included in the current House bill, the introduction of such fees would be inevitable in the future as an airline-dominated board looks to manage operating costs.

Another theme at the rally was modernization, not privatization, of air traffic control. Pete noted that if general aviation was edged out of the national airspace, modernization and innovation that starts at the grassroots level would be stifled.

“We pioneered ADS-B. … We pioneered the use of GPS technology,” he said. “We’ve been using it in general aviation for years. We pioneered the use of wide-area augmentation systems. … The reason that the airlines don’t have it is that they didn’t want to invest in it.”

Miracle on the Hudson pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger recently publicly opposed ATC privatization, saying it would be a mistake to entrust fair access to the nation’s airspace to the same airlines that are shrinking seats to make profits. EAA board member and former NASA astronaut Charlie Precourt also confirmed that he and fellow shuttle astronauts are taking a stand against privatization.

Jack, Mark, Pete, and Ed said support from respected heroes, as well as GA community members, is the strongest weapon against the more than $20 million being funneled toward privatization supported by the airlines.

Although H.R. 2997 was not initially scheduled for a House vote during the week of AirVenture, it could be added to the schedule at any time before Congress adjourns for recess on Friday. Jack and his fellow GA leaders made it clear that it’s imperative EAA members and AirVenture attendees contact their representatives during the week of the convention via www.ATCnotforsale.com to make their voices heard.