Page 10 - World Airshow May-Jun 2017
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JIM FRONEBERGER: EDITOR




                                Stop ATC Privatization




                             I  n early June, the Trump adminis-  controlled airspace could generate a charge, as could every con-

                                                               tact with a control tower or radar approach control and every
                                tration  announced  plans  to  trans-
                                fer responsibility for managing the
                             U.S. air traffic control system to a pri-  flight plan filed or weather briefing obtained.
                                                                 How airshows would be specifically impacted beyond the stan-
                             vate, non-profit corporation funded by   dard user fees is uncertain, but it’s not hard to imagine that things
                             user fees and managed by a board of di-  could get more complicated and expensive. For example, would
                             rectors largely controlled by the airline   airshow organizers be expected to reimburse the private corpora-
                             industry. This new entity would also be   tion for lost user fee revenue caused by a three or four-hour air-
                             exempt from congressional oversight.   port closure for an airshow waiver?
                             A couple of weeks later, a privatiza-  While I do think the private sector can be a more efficient and
                             tion bill was introduced in the House   effective provider of most products or services than can the gov-
                             of Representatives by Rep. Bill Shuster   ernment, that’s not always the case. The private sector works best
                             (R-PA), a longtime proponent of ATC   when (1) there is competition between multiple providers of the
        privatization. The next day, the Senate released its draft FAA reau-  product or service in question, and (2) the buyer/consumer of
        thorization bill, but that bill would keep ATC as part of the FAA.   that product or service has complete freedom to choose which
        Which approach will prevail is yet to be determined.   provider to do business with, or to not even buy the product at all.
           Rarely do major political and policy initiatives from Wash-   The proposed ATC corporation would satisfy neither condi-
        ington directly target aviation and airshows, but this is one that   tion. Anyone who wanted to fly an airplane into a controlled air-
        clearly does. As a result, it is imperative that everyone involved in   port or into controlled airspace would have to deal with this new
        General Aviation and airshows take a special interest in the pro-  corporation. There wouldn’t be multiple control towers compet-
        cess that is about to unfold.                          ing for your business, and by regulation, if you wanted to land at
           Under the privatization proposal, airline transportation taxes   that airport you must talk to that ATC tower. Your only choice
        would be eliminated and replaced by unspecified aviation user   might be to use uncontrolled back-country airports, not file IFR,
        fees (not surprising given that privatization has long been pushed   and never get a weather briefing.
        by the airlines and their lobbyists). According to the Aircraft   I think there are just some things that aren’t a good fit for the
        Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the White House’s pro-  private sector. We probably wouldn’t consider turning over the
        posal would impose user fees on all levels of General Aviation,   U.S. military to a private company. The local police department
        while Shuster’s bill would not impose fees on Part 91 or Part 135   probably wouldn’t work well as a privatized entity either. (That’ll
        operations. Either way, though, it’s not hard to foresee that a pri-  be $75 to come and investigate the robbery at your home, sir.
        vate corporation controlled by the airline industry would soon   Want us to catch the bad guy? Okay, that’ll be another $350.) All
        look to General Aviation fees as a way to raise revenue.  are part of basic government infrastructure that helps support our
           While it is true that quite a few other countries have separated   citizens and our economy.
        their ATC systems from government, most of those countries do   I absolutely support the Administration’s broader goal to uti-
        not have the robust, active General Aviation communities that we   lize new technologies and keep modernizing the U.S. airspace
        have here in the United States. In most of those countries, private   system. But given that the FAA says it has already delivered $2.72
        aviation is almost non-existent and priced out of the reach of only   billion in benefits from its NextGen modernization efforts, I
        the wealthiest citizens and largest companies.         don’t see why we have to privatize ATC to take advantage of new
           In his June 5 speech announcing the privatization proposal, the   technology.
        President justified the initiative by characterizing the current U.S.   Everyone  who  loves  aviation  and  cherishes  our  freedom  to
        ATC system as “an ancient, broken, horrible system that doesn’t   fly should be together on this one. It shouldn’t matter whether
        work.” That’s a curious conclusion for the President to reach, giv-  you identify as a Democrat or as a Republican. It shouldn’t mat-
        en that our U.S. air traffic control system is the best in world, and   ter whether you call yourself a conservative or a progressive. It
        it safely and efficiently handles more aircraft operations than any   shouldn’t matter whether you support the President’s broader
        other system. But I guess if you want to make a big change like   agenda or oppose it. All of us in General Aviation and in the air-
        this, you have to find a way to convince people change is needed,   show community should resist this ill-advised attempt to tinker
        even if it’s based on “alternative facts.”             with the best, safest aviation system in the world.
           When you consider that the new ADS-B equipment (which al-  Write your congressman. Write your senator. Write the White
        most all aircraft must install by 2020) will transmit your N# to   House. Do whatever you can to help preserve our safe and acces-
        ATC, it’s easy to see how the new private company could use that   sible air traffic control system.
        information to send you a bill for every flight. Each flight into







                                           WORLD AIRSHOW NEWS   10  JULY/AUGUST 2017
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