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Industry Presents United Voice Against ATC Privatization at NBAA-BACE

Oct. 10, 2017

Leaders of six influential general aviation (GA) advocacy groups delivered a powerful message of united opposition against ATC privatization during the No Plane No Gain Media Kick-Off Breakfast on the opening day of NBAA-BACE.

“This year we mark NBAA’s 70th anniversary,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Starting at our first convention in 1950, 19 companies came together in a hotel to work together and pool their resources. They realized we can do more together than any company can do by itself. And today, we’ve grown to more than 11,000 members.

“We are always stronger together,” he continued. “As you know, aviation is a large, sprawling and thriving community. And when we work together, then our voice is heard in Washington. This year, our industry is facing an issue in Washington that will be decisive for the future of general aviation in this country.”

Bolen then welcomed five other GA leaders who have joined together in a powerful coalition against H.R. 2997, the FAA funding reauthorization bill before the U.S. House of Representatives that includes a controversial provision to strip congressional oversight of the nation’s ATC system and replace it with a private board dominated by powerful airline interests.

Jack Pelton, CEO and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association, noted such an entity would have little incentive to consider operational concerns from the GA community. “Where would general aviation be at the end of the day, with the airlines calling the shots?” he continued. “It really could be catastrophic, as far as I’m concerned, in so many ways. We’ll get left out.”

General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce disputed attempts by airline proponents to draw a link between ATC privatization and progress towards modernizing the nation’s airspace system.

“As far as NextGen is concerned, there is no nation as advanced as we are,” Bunce said. “The entire ground network is in place all through the country, and we in general aviation started the Capstone program with ADS-B [testing in Alaska.] To have the airlines attack us, saying ATC modernization is behind because the FAA hasn’t moved forward, is an absolute falsehood.”

Marty Hiller, president of the National Air Transportation Association, asserted the very term “privatization” is a misnomer for the airlines’ plan. “It’s fair to say it’s the ‘airline-ization’ of air traffic control,” he continued. “When you look at the [current] fuel tax system, the consumption by segment and use of the airplane is the most efficient and fair way to pay for ATC. If the airlines take control, in their eyes there’s no difference between a 737 and a piston twin.”

To help industry stakeholders combat inaccuracies portrayed by airlines, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has developed a single-page checklist addressing key talking points. “Pilots use checklists to reference necessary information quickly,” added AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker. “We get across 3-4 basic points addressing ATC privatization, including that it will hurt general aviation; it hasn’t worked well in other areas it’s been tried; it will add to the deficit; and it will slow down conversion to modernized ATC.”

Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International (HAI), addressed provisions added to H.R. 2997 to ease GA concerns about airline dominance of the National Airspace System, pointing out that concessions made by one Congress may subsequently be rescinded by another.

“What concerns me the most is this seems like a two-faced program, and the first phase is, ‘do and say whatever we must to get this passed,’” he concluded. “‘And then a few years down the road, we’ll do what we actually really want to do.’ That’s when you’ll see access restrictions and user fees.”

NBAA and these other GA groups encourage the aviation community to visit the website for information on the privatization issue and to use that website and the telephone hotline (833) GA-VOICE to contact their elected representatives in Washington, DC and encourage these officials to oppose ATC privatization.

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