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ATC Privatization Myths vs. Facts

Myth: ATC privatization is a “big win” for GA.

Fact: More than 100 GA organizations, from grassroots aviators to business jet operators, have voiced their opposition to Congress on the ATC privatization proposal in the 21st Century AIRR Act. GA concerns include equal and fair access to airspace, the governance of the ATC corporation’s board, continued service to rural communities, and the future threat of user fees.

Myth: Serving the public will be a priority for the ATC corporation.

Fact: The ATC corporation will serve as a government-chartered monopoly, controlled by a board dominated by commercial interests. The corporation will compete with no one, and with lack of Congressional oversight, will be accountable to no one. In addition, the lack of competition removes any market forces that would reduce costs and improve services.

Myth: I never use ATC, so a privatized ATC system would never affect me.

Fact: The proposal contained in the House 21st Century AIRR Act transfers control of the entire National Airspace System to a private corporation, not just the ATC function itself. Whether you use ATC or not, you are a user of the National Airspace System and would be subject to the control and decisions of this corporation.

Myth: Air service to rural communities will be protected in a privatized ATC system.

Fact: Under this proposal, there is no independent third party, such as the FAA, to ensure all communities large and small are served fairly by the privatized ATC system. There is no guarantee that the corporation will maintain service to rural areas if such service is not in its interest.

Myth: Privatizing ATC will drastically reduce airline delays.

Fact: Though this claim is widely spread by the airlines, delays are largely caused by circumstances within their control. According to the DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about 50% of delays between June 2015 and June 2016 were caused by aircraft maintenance, crew scheduling, refueling, and other factors. Another 30% of delays were caused by weather, which is obviously outside of anyone’s control.

Myth: FAA bureaucracy has caused delays in modernizing the U.S. airspace system.

Fact: Both the airlines and GA are reaping the benefits of the technological improvements implemented by the FAA’s NextGen program. Commercial flight efficiency has been improved, flight plans are quick and simple to file, and thanks to GPS, instrument approaches to many of the nation’s airports large and small are safer and more precise than ever. Additionally, ADS-B has made real-time traffic and weather information available in the cockpit for both GA and commercial pilots. Any delays in NextGen implementation can largely be attributed to Congress’s inability to pass a long-term, stable budget for the FAA.

Myth: Dozens of countries around the world have privatized ATC systems, so such a system can easily work in the U.S.

Fact: The U.S. has the most complex airspace system in the world, handling more traffic than any other country. The U.S. also has a larger and more robust GA community than any other country in the world, largely attributable to GA’s guaranteed equal access to the airspace system. The DOT Office of the Inspector General as well as the GAO have questioned whether other countries’ systems can be scaled to fit that of the U.S. It is also worth noting that no other country has removed government oversight of ATC to the extent of the proposal contained in the House 21st Century AIRR Act.

Myth: Transferring ATC to a private corporation will lead to savings for taxpayers.

Fact: In its updated score on the 21st Century AIRR Act, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that transferring ATC from the Federal government to a private, non-profit corporation may cost tax payers at nearly $100 Billion. That number could cover the remaining costs of airspace modernization with change to spare. The National Airspace System is also vital to the nation’s economy and national security. Because the U.S. cannot function without its airspace system working 24/7, the ATC corporation is “too big to fail” and would be ripe for a multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout should it ever encounter financial difficulties. Nearly all costs would remain, such as those for labor and navigation updates, while the additional cost of bureaucracy between the ATC corporation and remaining FAA would be a new expense.

Myth: I can’t do anything to stop ATC privatization.

Fact: You absolutely can! Direct calls to congressional offices are even more valuable than e-mails. Go to to find the contact information for your Congressional representatives and call them today, or use the toll-free line at (855) 265-9002. Tell them you do not support ATC privatization!

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