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Bolen Challenges Journal’s Claims About ATC Privatization

June 10, 2016

On the same day The Wall Street Journal published a recent editorial supporting House legislation for creating a privatized Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, funded by user fees and overseen by an airline-dominated board of directors, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen immediately responded with a letter challenging the newspaper’s claims, and the intent of the House legislation.


June 10, 2016

Dear Editor,

Your June 10 editorial, “U.S. Air-Traffic Liberation,” suggested that turning over the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system to some combination of special interests will produce a better system. Let’s bring some reality to this discussion.

Under the legislation your editorial supports, the airlines – the object of routine complaints about anti-consumer behavior, anti-competitive practices and other troubling activities – would gain sweeping authority over the ATC monopoly.

Of course, most of the airlines support the idea of having effective control over the ATC monopoly. Once they are granted such authority – something they’ve long lobbied for – they will make the decisions about which communities get served, where investments are made, and a host of other matters. The effect, in many instances, could be to stifle, not foster, efficiency, innovation and competition.

In other words, putting the airlines in charge of the air traffic system would promote a focus not on what’s in the public interest, but in the airlines’ business interests. This doesn’t make any more sense than putting the trucking industry in charge of the national highway system.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that legitimate concerns about this concept have been raised by Congressional lawmakers, consumer organizations, rural coalitions – and a majority of Americans, who, by a nearly two-to-one margin, oppose ATC privatization.

Making sure the United States has the best aviation system now and in the future is everyone’s responsibility. But, simply turning over the system to a private board, effectively overseen by the airlines, isn’t the answer.

Ed Bolen
President and CEO
National Business Aviation Association