Here’s who to thank and why it likely went down as it did.
Last night House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster (R, PA) withdrew the amendment to FAA reauthorization pushing for turning the FAA’s air traffic control functions over to a private corporation. The bill—the Senate has already passed its version—once passed will then move on to reconciliation and the end result, it seems likely, will be a four-year spending allotment that should keep the FAA running for the next several years without the ATC giveaway rearing its ugly head during that time. It’s sad to say, but this is one on the biggest victories that GA has ever won in Congress. It’s sad not because of the outcome but because we’ve been spending our resources fighting to keep this very bad thing from happening instead of putting our energies to making good things happen.
And make no mistake: ATC Privatization is a very bad thing in principle and in the way the amendment was written. The idea, plain and simple, was to give away ATC to the airlines, a move that would have been disastrous to GA, from little airplanes to big bizjets. By ending the privatization push for now, we’re essentially ending discussions of user fees as a mode for paying for ATC services, as opposed to the fuel tax we have now. It’s a system that has little bureaucratic overhead and works reliably and transparently. It just costs the airlines more than they want to pay, which is nothing, of course.
The amendment got shut down, it seems probable, because Rep. Shuster did the math and found that there was no path to victory with the giveaway. You can thank AOPA for this. You can thank EAA for this. You can thank NBAA for this. And you can thank GAMA for this…etc. More than 200 groups came out against the amendment, and that’s impressive and all, but the point is, in coming against the scheme they convinced our friends in the House to come out against it too. With many bills these days it’s Republicans lined up on one side of the tally and Democrats on the other. When it comes to the freedom to fly, it’s a far less partisan topic. And that’s ultimately what won the day for GA.
Is ATC Privatization dead? Well, for now it is. But the airlines, who are always looking for ways to spend less and offer less service, are sure to come back around to the subject first chance they get.
Hopefully that won’t be for a few more years and we can get working on positive things, like certification reform, additional medical reform, safety initiatives and more, all of which will help make GA stronger and make the nation just a little more free.