ATC Privatization Plan Hits Turbulence

A Senate panel has rejected the idea while the votes needed to pass a House bill have so far failed to materialize.

ATC EAA
AirVenture guests have been greeted by a bevy of information on the GA community's opposition to ATC privatization.Flying

Bill Shuster still thinks it’s a great idea, and apparently so does Sam Graves, but it’s starting to feel like the rest of Congress is ready to move on from the ill-fated idea of ATC privatization and focus on the real issue at hand: how to properly fund the FAA so the agency can complete critical air traffic modernization projects.

A Senate panel on Tuesday rejected the Trump Administration’s proposal to privatize air traffic control, with the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for transportation and housing approving by voice vote a $60 billion bill, with $16.7 billion for the FAA.

That vote occurred on the same day that GA leaders left Oshkosh to head to D.C. to meet with members of the House General Aviation Caucus and explain why ATC privatization is “a solution in search of a problem,” in their view.

“If Congress would just provide the FAA with stable, multi-year funding for its modernization programs, we wouldn’t even be talking about ATC privatization,” said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton at AirVenture.

Rep. Graves, the Republican co-chair of the GA Caucus who recently flip-flopped on the issue after opposing ATC privatization last year, was a no-show at the meeting, which was attended by a small number of GA Caucus members and a large contingent of staffers who sat down with GAMA chairman Pete Bunce, NBAA president Ed Bolen and AOPA president Mark Baker to discuss the issue.

Pelton, who opted to remain in Oshkosh for AirVenture rather than attend the meeting, blasted Rep. Shuster yesterday at a public town hall and later at a press conference at Oshkosh, accusing the Pennsylvania Republican of resorting to “strong-arm tactics” to secure the votes needed to pass a bill. He cited a Northern Wisconsin congressman whose district suffered flooding and needed insurance relief. According to Pelton, that congressman was told, “You vote no on privatization and that insurance bill will never see the light of day.”

Pelton said threats have also been leveled at EAA to support ATC privatization or get “nothing” in the bill.

Despite the hurdles ATC privatization backers face, the issue is far from dead as the Trump Administration continues to press for an ATC overhaul. Schuster is expected to again push to get the votes he needs after the summer recess in early September. The GA industry associations say they will keep applying pressure in the meantime by telling their side of the story and encouraging their members to contact Congress as well.