Opponents to Privatizing Air Traffic Control Voice Concerns - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

Opponents to Privatizing Air Traffic Control Voice Concerns

The Alliance for Aviation Across America released a letter to Congress this week from more than 115 mayors in all 50 states expressing concern about the impact of air traffic control (ATC) privatization on communities across the country, especially those in rural regions of the country.

The Alliance for Aviation Across America released a letter to Congress this week from more than 115 mayors in all 50 states expressing concern about the impact of air traffic control (ATC) privatization on communities across the country, especially those in rural regions of the country.

These concerns come on the heels of recent reports that proponents of privatizing the U.S. air traffic control system have an apparently sympathetic ear in the White House as they renew their fight to wrest air operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Inside GNSS recently reported that President Trump had criticized the FAA’s handling of ATC modernization, pointing out the ongoing issues with NextGen during a February 9 meeting with airline executives. For the complete article, as well as information about how ATC privatization raises serious questions about several issues related to satellite navigation, click here.

According to the Alliance for Aviation Across America, these communities, local airports and general aviation represent a vital connection for small businesses, farms, emergency responders and other critical services. Formed in 2007, the alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of more than 6,300 individuals representing businesses, agricultural groups FBO’s, small airports, elected officials, charitable organizations, and leading business and aviation groups that support the interest of the general aviation community across various public policy issues

This proposal to privatize the ATC system, which is being pushed by the big, commercial airlines, would put this system under the purview of a private board of mostly commercial interests which would direct everything from taxes and fees, to airport investments and access.

This group of mayors is only the latest in a number of voices raising concerns about the proposal to privatize the air traffic control system. Consumer advocates, free market groups, major Committees in Congress, chambers of commerce, and businesses have all voiced concerns about this proposal. In addition, the majority of American people disapprove of this idea, according to the Alliance for Aviation Across America.

The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Member of Congress:

As you debate reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), I write to ask you to reject any risky plans to privatize our air traffic control system and take away Congressional oversight of this important public system.

Over the last year, proposals have recently been forwarded to put this vital infrastructure under the control of a private entity dominated by the commercial airlines. On behalf of the tens of thousands of communities around the country, we are concerned about the very real and dire ramifications of eliminating Congressional oversight of this public air transportation infrastructure. 

For tens of thousands of communities such as ours around the country, we depend on our local airport and all sectors of transportation to reach far-off markets and access critical services such as law enforcement, disaster relief, and medical care. Small aircraft and airports are utilized on a daily basis to help transport blood and organs to residents in rural communities, reunite veterans back from overseas with their families, maintain power lines, and help our companies reach customers in far-off markets, among many other priorities.

Privatization would hand over decisions about infrastructure funding, taxes and fees, consumer complaints, noise, and many other priorities, to a board of private interests dominated by the commercial airlines. These are the same airlines that have cut back flights to smaller communities by more than 20 percent in recent years, and have stated their intent to divert investment from small and mid-sized communities to large ones where the airlines are most profitable.


We are also concerned about costs and access. For example, the Canadian, privatized system, which is often held up as the system the U.S. should emulate, is more expensive than the system we have in the U.S. by miles flown. In the U.K., that system has seen "more delays, higher fares and reduced connectivity" at London’s airports since privatization. So while we all agree that modernizing our air traffic control system and investing in American infrastructure should be among our highest priorities, privatization is not the answer.

We look forward to working with you throughout this process to ensure that our air transportation system protects communities of all sizes and keeps passengers flying safely and efficiently.

The letter includes the names of the mayors from more than 100 cities/villages in the United States.

Senate Appropriations Committee Leaders Oppose Privatizing
Recently, Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation opposing privatizing the nation’s ATC system.

The letter comes as the commercial airlines have redoubled their efforts to lobby to take away Congressional oversight of the ATC system and put it under a board dominated by private interests, the Alliance for Aviation Across America said. 

According to the letter, “The public would not be well-served by exempting any part of the FAA from annual congressional oversight. A privatized system would provide consumers with no recourse for complaints or mistreatment, as it currently does through the Department of Transportation or their Members of Congress. The annual appropriations process provides the oversight of agency resources necessary to ensure accountability for program performance and a sustained focus on aviation safety.”

In addition, the letter states, ”annual oversight also ensures that the FAA maintains a system that works throughout the aviation industry, including for general aviation, small and rural communities, commercial airlines, and large metropolitan cities.” 

The full letter can be viewed here.

Most of the airlines want to privatize ATC as a way to stabilize funding and get Congress out of the process. Opponents, however, have voiced worries the public may be put at risk if the FAA, which is also the United States lead for air safety, is separated from ATC operations. There are also broad concerns about the impact on service to airports in more rural areas, and questions about the changes’ impact on general aviation, and about air travel prices, as previously touched on in this article.