By any measure the US air traffic control system is the envy of the world for travel efficiency and safety. As GA pilots we enjoy the benefits of this huge managed system. But paying the huge bill for these services becomes a political football every year with congressional squabbles that create continual budgetary uncertainties, sequestration and great inefficiencies for that system. AOPA is a critical voice in the defense of General Aviation pilots in this squabble as is NBNA representing corporate aviation.
Obviously, secure funding of some form is needed to create long-term stability, efficiency and progress for the current ATC system. Additionally, though financially bloated and occasionally controversial, the FAA’s multi-year modernization program called NextGen, (the upgrading from ground-based radar to satellite-based GPS systems) is the obvious next step in air traffic control. Whether we want the airlines running our ATC as a private corporation is obviously a question of concern for those of us in the General Aviation arena.
The Trump proposal is part of a $1.2 trillion discretionary budget blueprint for the year starting Oct. 1 to “Make America Great Again.” The proposal would have the Transportation Department start moving controllers “to an independent, non-governmental organization” claiming the move would “make the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety.”
These proposals are nothing new in Washington. Last year President Obama proposed the same thing and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed legislation that would have privatized air traffic control and imposed user fees on Part 135 charter operations based outside Alaska and Hawaii. This legislation was supported by the major airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association but failed to make it to the floor and died amidst intense bipartisan criticism.
This year however, privatization is a more solid keystone of President Trump’s mission and this adds strength to these proposals to “corporatize” ATC and fund it through user fees. We will see how this plays out in the coming months. I would advise all concerned pilots to be vigilant and active in protecting the rights of general aviation (less than 1% of the electorate) or our future will soon resemble the European model.
(BTW; these are *my* comments and may or may not represent the official viewpoint of SAFE. Approving every sentence included here would sure slow our ability to stay current with the evolving issues. We appreciate *your* comments below.)
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