Will gridlock save the world’s best ATC system from the worst intentions of Washington?
A few days ago, the threat of the federal government privatizing the nation’s air traffic control system seemed dead, at least for this year. Last week the proposal, which would have funded the FAA for the next year while introducing a non-profit Canadian style ATC, was passed over in favor of what looks to be a three-month stop-gap measure to pay the FAA’s bills while funding gets sorted out. Usually such an action is the death knell for complex and controversial legislation, but in this case, there are conflicting messages. According to Politico’s Morning Transportation report, Senate commerce head John Thune (R, South Dakota) has been actively working with the proposal’s House sponsor, Bill Shuster (R, PA), who is the romantically passionate backer of the ATC giveaway. Shuster, who separated form his wife in 2014, is reported to be dating a leading lobbyist for the airlines. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.
While just days earlier legislators on both sides of the aisle seemed concerned about carving out ATC from the FAA, giving virtual control of the system to the airlines, but today, reports Politico, there’s “radio silence” on the subject, even from Transportation, which one would think would want to keep ATC in house. We expressed sweeping objections to the proposal last week here and urged aviation member organizations to take the threat more seriously, as EAA was presenting the issue to its members.
So while it looked as though gridlock was doing us a favor on this one, Congress’s strange form of quiet insider trading of favors, among themselves and with the administration, might be keeping this zombie proposal alive and dangerous. We should know more within days as Congress puts together its short-term funding plan and Shuster, doubtless, tries to keep alive his ATC proposal, to which he is passionately attached.